Dams, Mines and the Canadian Connection
By Alex Latta and Kari Williams for The Council of Canadians
Far away, on the southern cone of South America in Chilean Patagonia, exists one of the most beautiful, still-virgin territories on Earth. There, an intense struggle is taking place that most Canadians have never heard of, but that intimately involves the Canadian mining industry, the Canadian government, and millions of Canadian pensioners and investors. This report by Alex Latta and Kari Williams tells the story of this struggle and why every Canadian should care about it.
To harness the mighty hydropower of as many as 12 major rivers in Patagonia, the Chilean government has given water rights and some permissions to three transnational energy companies to construct a series of major dams that would generate electricity to be transported more than 2,000 kilometres north for injection into Chile’s central grid near Santiago. The first phase of the project is the construction of five major dams on the Baker and Pascua Rivers, two of the few remaining pristine rivers in the world, an act that would flood more than 8,500 hectares of farmland, forest, river ecosystems and natural reserves.
Public opposition to the project is fierce in Chile and growing around the world. The Chilean government, committed to a policy of industrial and extractive industry growth, has turned a deaf ear to the environmentalists and scientists who have shown that Chile is rich in sunshine, wind, and other renewable energy sources. They have proven that this project is not only unnecessary, it will have long term and irreversible negative consequences for the watersheds, wildlife and human inhabitants of the region.
Download the report: Chilean Patagonia in the Balance