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NEWS: Major investor in HidroAysen projects pulls back

MercoPress reports, “Santiago-based power company Colbun SA (COLBUN), which holds 49% of 2,750-megawatt HidroAysen project said it wants to indefinitely suspend plans to seek environmental permission to build transmission lines to the capital. Empresa Nacional de Electricidad SA, known as Endesa, a Spanish company owns the remaining 51%. Colbun, in a statement filed with Chile’s securities regulator, said the country needs broader consensus on its energy policy before HidroAysen can advance. Nationwide protests against the dam, plus delays in other generation projects, have investors concerned.”

“HidroAysen involves building five dams for an estimated 3.2 billion and 1,900 kilometers of transmission line to feed the grid that supplies Santiago as well as copper mines operated by state-owned Codelco and Anglo American Plc.

The Chilean government has been exploring the hydroelectric potential of the Baker and Pascua rivers in the Aysen region since the 1940s. Endesa and Colbun presented the first study on the project in 2007 and won environmental approval last year to build the dams. …Chile which is the world’s top copper producer needs to double its electricity generating capacity as mining companies such as Codelco and BHP Billiton Ltd. plan 100 billion dollars of expansions, according to Chilean mining society Sonami. Codelco and BHP have called on the government to speed up permitting for new power generators.”

“With Chile’s energy-intensive mining industry clamoring for more power and living standards improving, some analysts say the country must triple its capacity in just 15 years, despite having no domestic oil or natural gas. Chile imports 97% of its fossil fuels and depends largely on hydropower for electricity, creating a crisis when droughts drain reservoirs or far away disputes affect fuel imports. …The dams together could generate 2.75 gigawatts, nearly a third of central Chile’s current capacity, within 12 years. Supporters say its economic benefits justify carving access roads through an area of Andean glaciers and deep green valleys and fjords and running transmission lines through national parks and private properties all the way to Santiago.”

Construction on the project is scheduled to start in 2014, with its five dams operational by 2024.

The Council of Canadians
We began campaigning on this issue in February 2008 with an action alert, Multiple campaign blogs on this issue from the past four years can be read at

On March 8, 2012, the Council of Canadians released a report entitled Chilean Patagonia in the Balance: Dams, Mines and the Canadian Connection by Alex Latta and Kari Williams. The report exposes the involvement of the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, the Canada Pension Plan, and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, as well as Canadian companies Barrick Gold, Goldcorp, and Kinross in highly controversial projects in Chile. The report highlights:

1) The rising demand for more energy is driven by Chile’s rapidly expanding mining industry, in which Canadian companies are the single largest source of foreign investment. Canadian mining companies, such as Barrick Gold, Goldcorp, and Kinross, are aggressively moving into Latin America.

2) Transelec, the only transmission company currently operating in Chile that is capable of building the project’s link to the market — likely to require an 80-metre wide, 2,300-kilometre-long clear-cut corridor through 14 national parks, nature preserves and conservation areas — is owned by a Canadian consortium led by Brookfield Asset Management, with partnership from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, both public sector investors.

3) Major investments in the Chilean mining industry fuelling demand for the Patagonia project are supported by loans and loan guarantees from Export Development Canada, Canada’s export credit agency.

The report can be read at

Today and tomorrow, our ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ conference in Vancouver will discuss the impacts of mining projects, notably on the human right to water, in Canada and throughout the Americas. For more on Shout Out, please see