The relationship between surface landowners and mining concession holders in Chile is governed by law, which grants preferential rights to the latter. Mining concession holders may exercise their rights to search for minerals and impose mining easements on landowners. However, in the case of state property, such matters are regulated by a ministerial order.
Until 1979, the Mining Code 1932 defined the legal regime for lithium. During that period, lithium was treated like any other mineral and could be privately owned without special restrictions. This situation has changed with the enactment of a number of laws. Most recently, the Ministry of Mining's Supreme Decree 64 established special operation contract requirements and conditions for the exploration, exploitation and processing of lithium deposits in the Atacama region.
The El Pelicano solar park, a photovoltaic power plant located north of Santiago, was recently opened. The plant, which represents an investment of $250 million, has a capacity of 110 megawatts (MW) and will provide approximately 42% of the energy required by the Santiago subway system. In 2014 solar power in Chile had an installed capacity of 11 MW. With the launch of the El Pelicano project, this capacity has risen to 2,100 MW.
The government recently filed a compensation claim for environmental damage against mining company Pampa Camarones. The claim was based on the fact that Pampa Camarones' operations had violated a series of measures that the regional evaluation commission had stipulated to protect a nearby archaeological site. As a result, over 15 hectares of the site were destroyed without the required measures being undertaken to protect its archaeological value.
The Superintendence of the Environment (SoE) recently issued an environmental resolution ordering the permanent cessation of Compañía Minera Nevada (CMN) SpA's Pascua Lama mining project. After having considered the background and evidence provided during the investigative process, the SoE ordered the permanent closure of the mining site based on a number of breaches and imposed a series of fines. CMN SpA has filed a complaint against the resolution.
A recent Supreme Court of Justice decision required the applicant in a proceeding initiated to complete the good and legal title of surface water rights to notify all holders of water rights in the same watershed to which the application referred. Failure to involve other rights holders in the same river basin in the respective proceedings, as required by this decision, could render subsequent proceedings obsolete and thus result in the loss of considerable time for the applicant.
Congress recently approved a tax reform that introduced a new Pigovian or green tax and amended income and indirect tax rates. The green tax will apply directly to emissions derived from industrial processes that result in environmental damage. The new tax will be implemented before the end of 2017 and will affect industrial establishments that use boilers or turbines.
In 2015 the National Institute of Industrial Property (INAPI) was designated as an international searching authority (ISA) and international preliminary examining authority (IPEA) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. From January 1 2018, the INAPI can issue international search and preliminary examination reports for Chilean applicants and applicants from Latin American and Caribbean countries that have designated the INAPI as their ISA and IPEA.
The National Institute of Industrial Property (INAPI) recently inaugurated its technology and innovation support centre, which was backed by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. The INAPI also recently implemented an advanced electronic signature programme, strengthened security measures to safeguard information and initiated a pilot plan that will enable the institute to become a paperless organisation.
Law 21,045, which was recently published in the Official Gazette, created the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Patrimony and reformed the IP Act through the creation of the National Cultural Patrimony Service. Under the changes introduced, the Intellectual Rights Department is now under the auspices of the National Cultural Patrimony Service. As a result, all IP matters are now part of the new Ministry of Arts, Cultures and Patrimony.
The Trademark Office recently rejected several trademark applications containing the terms 'corporation', 'corporations' or similar when the applicant was not a US-based company on the basis that they would result in error or confusion. However, the Industrial Property Appeals Court dismissed this argument and revoked the Trademark Office's decisions, stating that the law does not require a trademark to be concordant with the applicant's corporate structure or organisation.
The Merchant Navy Law, which includes a cabotage reservation system, implies that only Chilean vessels are permitted to provide maritime or fluvial transport services (of cargo or passengers) within Chile or its exclusive economic zone. However, Law 21,138 recently came into force, allowing passenger cabotage on foreign cruise vessels provided that certain conditions are met.
Law 21,132 recently came into force and introduced new definitions of criminal offences in connection with marine biological resources, including the exploitation of banned natural resources or products extracted from the seabed and overfishing. In the case of spills that cause damage to hydro-biological resources, shipowners operating in Chile are now subject to greater contingency – not only in terms of administrative penalties, but also in connection with criminal liability.
The owners of a Chilean tugboat constituted a limitation fund to respond to damages suffered by different parties in connection with the sinking of a towed vessel following a salvage and towage operation. The plaintiffs opposed the fund's constitution, arguing that 'personal acts' committed by the tug's owners exempted them from the right to limit liability. The Supreme Court recently rejected the opposition; its decision should provide future certainty regarding the interpretation and scope of shipowners' personal acts.
Law 21,066 recently came into force and amended the Navigation Law in connection with the extraction of sunk or stranded vessels and harmful materials contained therein. The changes strengthen marine environment preservation and navigation safety, and the new faculties granted to the Maritime Authority in respect of ships or craft whose condition poses a risk or danger represent a positive change.
A limitation fund was recently constituted in the context of a salvage and towage operation. The plaintiffs opposed the fund's constitution, arguing that, under Chilean law, salvors are not entitled to limit their liability. The Valparaiso Second Civil Court rejected the opposition and upheld the limitation fund. The decision is one of the most relevant substantive decisions in this regard and should provide future certainty in the safeguarding salvors' rights to limit their liability.