Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has submitted a series of modifications to a bill introduced earlier this year, which would set stiffer fines and jail time for serious violations of the country’s environmental rules.
The proposed law would make it a
crime to mislead environmental inspectors or to obstruct the enforcement of
environmental regulations in the world’s top copper producing country.
As part of the amendments, the government has tripled the related fines to up to $215,000 from a previous top of $70,000 and defined the scope of what would be considered environmental damage.
Jail time has been kept at a maximun of two months.
The new law would also empower
local and regional authorities to more closely supervise mitigation efforts of
projects that have the potential to pose serious environmental threats.
Most environmental crimes in Chile
are currently handled by civil or environmental tribunals, or through
out-of-court settlements with regulators.
The ex-prosecutor for the Ministry
of the Environment, Jorge Cash, said that while the changes point in the right
direction, they only apply to companies and not to its top executives.
“The proposed law lacks of means to attribute criminal responsibility to managers,” Cash told local newspaper La Tercera. “Without that, the most affected executives with be the middle men, not the decision makers.”
Chile has a history of imposing
hefty fines to miners that breach environmental regulations. In 2015, the Superintendence
of the Environment (SMA) ordered Lumina Copper to pay $11.9 million for infractions to the provisions
established in its mining permit, including failure to implement mitigation
measures to prevent the contamination of underground water supplies
At the time, it was the
second-highest fine the SMA had imposed since it was created in 2012.
The largest penalty until then — $16 million — was issued in 2013 to Barrick Gold’s (TSX:ABX) (NYSE:GOLD) now shelved Pascua Lama gold and silver mine.
The amended initiative would need to pass both chambers of Chile’s Congress before becoming law.