Chile suspends licensing of 600-MW Rio Cuervo pending EIS update

Chile’s Region XI environmental regulator has suspended the licensing process of the 600-MW Rio Cuervo hydroelectric project, pending revisions to its environmental impact study (EIS).

Energia Austral, the Chilean unit of Swiss miner Xstrata, submitted the EIS to the regional regulator, Corema, in January as part of its bid to build Rio Cuervo on the Cuervo River in Chile’s Region XI. (HNN 1/5/07)

Corema President Viviana Betancourt said regional agencies found that essential information for evaluating the EIS was not included in the filing, according to local reports carried by Business News Americas. However, the company may submit a new study with more complete information.

Environmental groups have filed objections to Rio Cuervo with Chile’s national environment commission, Conama. Additionally, Chilean utility Colbun, one of the sponsors of the four-plant, 2,500-MW Aysen hydropower complex, has said it is impossible to add another power plant to a proposed 2,000-kilometer transmission line in the region, press reports said. (HNN 3/29/07)

Xstrata obtained the US$600 million project with its acquisition of Canadian miner Falconbridge in 2006. It said it expected the project to begin operation in 2012.

Falconbridge merged in mid-2005 with Noranda, which originally planned to build three hydro plants in Aysen — a 740-MW Rio Cuervo, 54-MW Lago Condor, and 360-MW Rio Blanco — to supply its US$3 billion Alumysa aluminum plant project. But development was halted after the government, under pressure from salmon farmers and environmental groups, rejected the aluminum plant.

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