SANTIAGO, Aug 27 (Reuters) –
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Friday proposed boosting royalties paid by mining companies to fund reconstruction after a devastating earthquake, and his government called for tighter safety standards after a cave-in trapped 33 miners.
Pinera said his government will propose a new voluntary mining royalty expected to raise $1 billion to help fund reconstruction after a massive earthquake in February.
The royalty would have to be voluntary because the country already has contracts with foreign miners that expire around 2017.
Pinera hopes miners will agree to pay higher royalties amid growing expectations for foreign companies to contribute more to the post-quake rebuilding.
The stunning finding of 33 miners trapped deep underground after a cave-in on Aug. 5 is also likely to boost his popularity and support in Congress to approve royalty reforms.
In a speech to mark 6 months of the devastating quake, Pinera said the bill will be sent to Congress next week.
Chile is the world's biggest copper exporter, and public pressure has been building to make foreign miners who profit from the country's resources contribute more to rebuilding damage from the earthquake.
The opposition-led legislature scrapped his original proposal after leftist lawmakers said the government should aim for a higher royalty increase. Global miners like BHP Billiton and Anglo American currently pay a fixed royalty of around 5 percent.
In the original proposal, the government sought to raise royalties by replacing the fixed rate for a sliding one of between 4 to 9 percent that varies depending on the companies' margins in exchange for extending a tax freeze for eight years.
Pinera did not detail the proposed changes to the royalty or if he had agreed with the opposition over reforms.
A major mining trade group has said the royalty hike is discriminatory. Experts, however don't expect the reforms to hit investment in the mining powerhouse.
Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said on Friday the government plans to create a new mining superintendency to oversee mining permits and safety standards.
He said the government also plans changes to safety regulation in the wake of the San Jose mine accident that has kept 33 miners deep undergound for over three weeks. The miners were found alive on Sunday, but their rescue could take several months.