A mining company (Mina Invierno) proposed a project to incorporate blasting methods at an existing permitted open pit coal mine in southern Chile. Citizens and civil society organizations properly presented petitions for the provision of citizen participation procedures during the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process required for this proposed complementary project, but those petitions were denied. The denial of those petitions was unsuccessfully appealed at the administrative level and the proposed project to incorporate blasting was approved, so a constitutional lawsuit (recurso de protección) was brought asserting the violation of the constitutional right to a healthy environment and seeking the invalidation of the administrative denials of participation petitions as well as an order to provide citizen participation procedures before approving the project.
Mina Invierno argued that the denial of petitions for citizen participation complied with the EIA law and regulations because blasting methods for mining is not one of the categories of projects enumerated in the regulations to be subject to citizen participation procedures. The Supreme Court of Chile disagreed and determined that the list of projects enumerated in the EIA regulations is not exhaustive, that any project that causes negative environmental impacts may be subject to citizen participation procedures (if properly petitioned), and that Mina Invierno’s project to incorporate blasting methods will cause negative environmental impacts and, therefore, may be subject to citizen participation procedures. Thus, the Supreme Court declared invalid the administrative resolutions rejecting the petitions for citizen participation procedures for the project to incorporate blasting methods and ordered the EIA process for said project to be subject to citizen participation procedures.