Chile: high court blocks Patagonia hydro scheme

Chile’s Supreme Court on May 11 issued a ruling blocking construction of the Cuervo hydroelectric dam in Patagonia until further environmental studies have been carried out. The dam was one of three hydroelectric plants proposed by Energía Austral, a private joint-venture between Anglo-Swiss mining giant Xstrata Copper and Australia’s Origin Energy, to supply power to copper mines in the area. The court found that the project failed to file a required soil study with the National Geology and Mining Service, overturning a decision earlier this month by Aysén region’s Environmental Evaluation Commission giving the project the green light. The environmental advocacy group Chile Sustentable welcomed the decision, hailing it as “a tremendous achievement for the citizens.” Chile, the world’s leading copper producer, needs to double its electrical generating capacity in the next decade to meet requirements of a planned massive expansion in the mining sector. The two remaining hydro-plants in the Energia Austral mega-scheme, Blanco and Cóndor, still await approval. (International Water Power, May 14; Jurist, May 13; Reuters, May 11; AFP, May 8)

See our last posts on Chile and regional struggles for water and minerals.

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