The history of Chile is linked to mining. These days, a handful of miners account for 55% of exports, generating enough revenue to
support Dutch Disease, corruption, and a large and inefficient
bureaucracy. But the proliferation of “environmental” NGOs in recent years, often with political aims, have crippled investment and hampered innovation.
The obstructionist actions of the Bachelet government in the Dominga Mine case is the perfect illustration of a governing class that has forgotten the source of Chile’s prosperity. There are also calls within the current left-wing government to place the mining industry completely under state control, as in the Allende days.
Having stated all that, Chile has a resource ignored among the fervid discussions on Lithium, “Green Hydrogen” and vast, expensive arrays of windmills and solar panels.
Its called Salitre, naturally occurring Nitrates, used to produce
fertilizer, but also explosives. This was the source of Chile’s
prosperity for 50 years until the Germans artificially synthesized
it during WW1 as a response to a British blockade. Although the
industry lingers on to this day, the global 1929 crash nearly
killed it off.
However, among the current woes besetting the world is a fertilizer shortage. These artificial Urea fertilizers allowed farmers to boost the food production that sustains the huge population increases of the last century.
Why is Chile not investigating and promoting this “natural” resource? Modern mining techniques may allow efficient large-scale extraction at a price that makes it competitive with the ever-increasing costs of artificial fertilizer.
At least it should be considered by some future government less hostile to private initiative and extractive industries.