Summit News

Chile's HidroAysen sees no more changes

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The developers of the $3.2 billion HidroAysen mega hydroelectric power project in southern Chile, which is grappling with strong environmental opposition, foresee no further modifications, the project’s CEO said on Monday.

Hernan Salazar told the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit in Santiago that HidroAysen was conducting additional studies to address worries about the project’s eventual environmental impact, and said the project’s estimated cost remained unchanged.

“Our project has been presented thus to the system ... We are not thinking of modifying it,” Salazar said.

Last August, HidroAysen reduced the area it planned to flood to create a reservoir by 36 percent to 5,300 hectares when it presented its environmental impact study amid protests.

In November, HidroAysen asked authorities for 9 months to respond to more than 2,600 queries about the environmental impact study about the project, which lies 1,050 miles south of the capital Santiago.

“We are doing (more studies) to adequately address some of those questions,” Salazar said.

The project has proved divisive in Chile’s southern Patagonia region. At the nearby airport in the southern town of Balmaceda, posters extolling HidroAysen vie with others that slam the project as a blot on the landscape and the environment.

Salazar said the company was studying alternative paths for its transmission line after Chile’s Chaiten volcano, which lies along the proposed route, erupted a year ago for the first time in thousands of years and continues to sporadically belch ash and molten rock.

The 2,750 megawatt HidroAysen project will include up to five hydroelectric plants to harness the power of two of Chile's most abundant rivers. The project, a joint venture between locally owned Colbun COL.SN and Endesa Chile END.SN, a unit controlled by Endesa Spain ELE.MC, is intended to pump energy into the country's stretched power grid.