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Colección: INTERAMER
Número: 69
Año: 2000
Autor: Ramón López and Juan Carlos Jordán, Editors
Título: Sustainable Development in Latin America: Financing and Policies Working in Synergy

Box 3

Oversight Actions in Chile

The Corporación del Cobre de Chile case offers an example of a successful oversight action against a state-owned company. The Chañaral Citizen’s Committee for the Defense of the Environment and Development claimed that the government authority that owned the El Salvador Mining Company, the largest company in Chile, was violating its constitutional right to a healthy environment because of an ongoing “arbitrary and illegal” discharge of pollutants by the mine’s metallurgical plant in the Salado River, causing severe contamination and it is the obligation of the State to watch for any violation of this right; citizens can bring a court action against an authority that violates it (called an “Article 20 Action”). In this case, the court, confirmed on appeal by the Supreme Court, ruled that, although the company had an authorization, this did not justify polluting the waters and that the discharge was a violation of the Committee’s constitutional right. The court ordered the mining company to end its discharge into the Pacific Ocean.

Another Article 20 Action was directed against the mayor of Futrono for the “arbitrary and illegal” installation of a rubbish dump without observing the minimal sanitation standards. This case is an example of well-coordinated use of administrative and civil procedures. The claimant simultaneously filed a complaint with the sanitation service against the mayor. The service ruled in favor of the claimant, imposed an administrative fine, and ordered the closure of the dump. Subsequently, the court that ruled on the Article 20 Action took this administrative decision into account and also ruled in favor of the claimant, i.e., ordered the closure and clean-up of the site.