Chile eyes new environment rules to spur investment

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 15, 2015 1:21 PM

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile will move to make changes to its environmental regulations to reduce uncertainty and encourage investment, President Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday.

Center-left Bachelet said she has appointed a commission to work over the next nine months to come up with a new environmental regulatory framework. The commission is led by the environment minister and is composed of academics and specialists in environmental, social and indigenous issues.

"This commission should generate proposals to modify and modernize the system, with the aim of developing a more expedited process," Bachelet said.

A number of major projects in Chile, the world's No. 1 copper exporter, have become ensnared in environmental red tape and endless court cases brought by increasingly active local communities.

As well as proving a costly headache for investors, such delays threaten economic growth, which is still largely reliant on mining.

Barrick Gold's Pascua-Lama mining project, for example, was halted in 2013 after the company had already spent $5 billion, plagued by problems that included wrangling over environmental permits.

Endesa Chile's $1.4 billion Punta Alcalde coal-fired power project and its $9 billion HidroAysen dam joint venture are also both in doubt.

Some copper projects in Chile will not see the light of day because of their inability to comply with sustainability rules, Nelson Pizarro, chief executive of top producer Codelco, predicted earlier on Wednesday.

A blocked pipeline for new projects casts doubt on projections for Chile's medium- to long-term copper production, one of the issues that has been under discussion at this week's CESCO/CRU world copper conference in Santiago.

(Reporting by Antonio de la Jara, Writing by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Peter Galloway)