Caimanes and the Water - Infinite Legal Struggles about a Finite Good

Florian Lehne


This report is intended to shed more light on the ongoing water struggle in Caimanes, a small urban area in the central northern area of Chile, neighbouring Latin America’s biggest tailings dam. Undoubtedly, the water in Caimanes is running out and the conflict between the opponents of the dam and its owner, a multinational copper enterprise, is getting more and more attention by the national and also international media. In the discussion a judgment of the Chilean Supreme Court from last October plays a central role, because it is said to have granted the people from Caimanes their right to water. After a short introduction with some details about Camaines and the tailings from the dam El Mauro, the key points of this judgment shall be outlined. The final part of the report is dedicated to various institutional problems of the Chilean resources law and policy that can become virulent for the water supply and the environmental well-being of many other urban areas in the industrialized north of Chile.

Key words: Water; mining-agriculture; urbanization; law; Chile

Full Text:



Bauer, C. J. (1997). Bringing water markets down to earth: The political economy of water rights in Chile, 1976–1995. World Development, 25(5), 639–656. doi: 10.1016/S0305-750X(96)00128-3

Bauer, C. J. (2013). The experience of water markets and the market model in Chile. In J. Maestu (Ed.), RFF press water policy series. Water trading and global water scarcity. International experiences (1st ed., pp. 130–143). Abingdon, Oxon, New York: RFF Press.

Bravo-Hurtado, P. (2013). Hacia los precedentes en Chile: Reforma procesal civil y fuentes del derecho. Revista Chilena de derecho, 40(2), 549–576. doi: 10.4067/S0718-34372013000200008

Cabrera, F., Ariza, J., Madejón, P., Madejón, E., & Murillo, J. M. (2008). Mercury and other trace elements in soils affected by the mine tailing spill in Aznalcóllar (SW Spain). The Science of the total environment, 390(2-3), 311–322. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2007.10.002

Hansen, H. K., Rojo, A., & Ottosen, L. M. (2005). Electrodialytic remediation of copper mine tailings. Journal of hazardous materials, 117(2-3), 179–183. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2004.09.014

Vàsquez, P.,Emmanuel, F.& Van Treek, E.V.(2014). Rebeldía en Calama: desafío al orden centralista chileno en un contexto de boom minero. Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, 59(222), 161–185. doi: 10.1016/S0185-1918(14)70214-4

Pokhrel, L. R., & Dubey, B. (2013). Global Scenarios of Metal Mining, Environmental Repercussions, Public Policies, and Sustainability: A Review. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 43(21), 2352–2388. doi: 10.1080/10643389.2012.672086

Withanachchi, S. S. (2012). The study of Transboundary Groundwater Governance in the notion of Governmentality: In the case of Guaraní Aquifer. AQUA mundi Journal of Water Sciences, 3(1), pp.9-14

Withanachchi, Sisira S., Houdret, A., Nergui, S., Gonzalez, E. E., Tsogtbayar, A., and Ploeger, A. (2014). (Re) configuration of water resources management in Mongolia: A critical geopolitical analysis. International Center for Development and Decent Work (ICDD) Working Papers 13. ISBN: 978-3-86219-860-3 (print) ISBN: 978-3-86219-861-0 (e-book)


  • There are currently no refbacks.




 Google Scholar H5 index 5 


The contributions of the peer reviewers for the journal are acknowledged in the 


Sponsoring Organisations

Logo Agrarekologie Uni Kassel