Xstrata files study of Chile’s 740-MW Rio Cuervo

Swiss miner Xstrata said January 2 it submitted an environmental impact study to Chilean authorities as part of its bid to build the 740-MW Rio Cuervo hydroelectric project in Chile’s Aysen Region.

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

In 2006, Falconbridge said the project would be on lands owned by the company in the Rio Cuervo area, which have no use for cattle breeding or tourism but have “great hydroelectric potential.” (HNN 4/4/06)

Falconbridge merged in mid 2005 with Noranda, which originally planned to build three hydro plants in Aysen — 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, decided not to allow the aluminum plant to be built there.

Falconbridge owned all critical assets for the aluminum project, including the hydro sites, water rights, and associated land.

Energy-poor Chile is searching for ways to supply growing demand amid threats of interruptions. The mining industry, which produces Chile’s No. 1 export copper, is the nation’s top energy consumer.

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