Water Law, Mining and Hydro-Energy Conflicts in South America: Tales from the Andes and Patagonia

Victor Tafur


Conflicts in connection with hydro-energy and mining activities vis-à-vis other water uses, mainly human consumption, agriculture, industry, tourism, or even the essential flows needed for ecosystem protection, call into question whether South America’s path in the 21st Century will be characterized as ‘open veins’ (borrowing from the title of Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano’s book) or sustainable development. In this era of ‘New Conquistadors’, as some have called it, the key question is whether water law and environmental legal frameworks in the region are fit to deal with the pressure posed by these extracting industries. The paper seeks to contribute to this debate by discussing legal issues in connection with a controversial gold mining project in the Argentina-Chile border and a hydro-energy project in the Chilean Patagonia. The goal of the paper is to provide a South American perspective of water law through the lens of conflict.

The paper concludes that water-related conflicts in these projects reveal weaknesses in the regulatory scheme for such endeavours and underscores the need to adopt reforms or implement mechanisms to ensure that water resources are adequately assessed, protected, and monitored.


Intergovernmental water agreements; water for hydro-power; environmental water; South American water law;

Full Text:



Argentina’s Glacier-Protection Law, (República de Argentina) Ley No 26639 de 2010, Régimen de Presupuestos Mínimos para la Preservación de los Glaciares y del Ambiente Periglacial.

Argentina’s Glacier-Protection Law, above n 10, arts 2 and 6.

Argentina’s Glacier-Protection Regulation, (República de Argentina) Decreto No 207 de 2011.

Argentina’s Mining Law, (República de Argentina) Decreto No 456 de 1997, (English translation )

Argentina’s Pascua-Lama EIA Approval (República de Argentina) Provincia San Juan, Resolución No. 121-SEM-06 de 4 de diciembre de 2006.

Chile’s General Environmental Law (República de Chile) Ley No 19300 of 1994 as amended by Ley No 20417 de 2010.

Chile’s Pascua-Lama EIA Approval, (República de Chile), Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente, Región Atacama, Resolucion Exenta No 024 del 15 de febrero de 2006,

Chile’s Water Code, (República de Chile) Decreto con Fuerza de Ley No 1122 de 1981, amended by Ley 20017 de 2005.

Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente, Región Aysén, Chile’s HidroAysén EIA Approval (República de Chile, Resolución Exenta No 225 de 13 de mayo de 2011, .

Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente, República de Chile, Región Atacama, Resolución Exenta No 22 de 1 de febrero de 2011,

Constitución de Argentina, art 41.

Constitución de Argentina, Artículo 124.

Federal Environmental Framework Law, (República de Argentina) Ley No 25675 de 2002.

Federal Mining Law (República de Argentina) Provincia San Juan, Ley No 25583 de 1994, .

Constitución de Argentina, Artículo 75 (12).

Agreement on environmental Cooperation (Chile-Canada) signed July 1997,

Antitrust litigation, No C 193-09.

Barrick Gold Corporation, Building Pascua-Lama-Factsheet (2009), 1-3, .

Barrick: Minería responsible de destruir los glaciares, (Julio 2011) Greenpeace .

Canada-Chile Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (Chile-Canada), signed July 1997 .

Chile’s Antitrust Law (República de Chile) Decreto con Fuerza de Ley No 211 de 1973.

Chile’s Tribunal for the Free Market, at .

Comisión Interdisciplinaria de Evaluación Ambiental Minera, created by provincial ‘Decreto No. 1815 de 2004’, .

Constitución de Chile, art 19.8.

Dirección General de Aguas (República de Chile Resolución) No 159 de 1990.

Dirección General de Aguas (República de Chile) Resolución No 164 de 1990.

Dirección General de Aguas (República de Chile) Resolución No 39 de 1990.

Dirección General de Aguas (República de Chile) Resolución No 52 de 1990.

Dirección General de Aguas (República de Chile) Resolución No 606 de 1990, 2 & 4.

EcoAmericas: A monthly report on development and the Environment in Latin America, October 2011 and April 2011 .

Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America, (Siglo XXI Editores, 3rd ed, 2004).

Greenpeace blog, .

HidroAysén’s EIA, Executive Summary,

Ministry of Mining of the Province of San Juan federal, .

Protectcción glaciares – el blog,

Protocolo Adicional Proyecto Minero Pascua Lama, Argentina-Chile, signed13 August 2004,

Protocolo Complementario, Argentina-Chile, signed 20 August 1999

Resolución Exenta No 22 de 26 de enero de 2010, .

Servicio de evaluación ambiental, .

Tratado entre la República de Chile y la República Argentina sobre Integración y Complementación Minera, Argentina- Chille, signed 29 December 1997

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, UN Doc A/CONF.151/26 (14 June 1992).

Victor M Tafur, Sustainable Energy Law in Latin America, (Doctoral Dissertation, Pace University, 2006), 77-78 .

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/ijrlp.i1.2011.2601


  • There are currently no refbacks.