Alto Maipo Hydroelectric Project: A Threat to Chile’s Environment

CIEL supports the Citizen Coordinating Committee in Defense of the Cajón del Maipo and Chilean NGO Ecosistemas in raising concerns about the devastating environmental impacts of the Alto Maipo hydroelectric project. With an international coalition, we have filed complaints challenging the International Finance Corporation and the Inter-American Development Bank’s investment in the project.

The Alto Maipo Hydroelectric Project, currently under construction just outside Santiago, Chile, threatens the water supply for over seven million Chileans and will have devastating long-term environmental impacts. Concerned citizens call the project “unviable” and are calling for it to be halted.

The run-of-the-river project – a joint venture between US utility subsidiary AES Gener and Chilean mining company Antofagasta Minerals (AMSA) – is being financed by nine banks and was approved despite evidence of serious flaws in the environmental impact assessment and inadequate consultation. The project is also registered with the Clean Development Mechanism, through which companies can receive carbon credits for projects that reduce carbon emissions.

The environmental impacts of Alto Maipo will be devastating. The project will cause extreme hardship for residents downstream; it will cripple the Maipo Valley’s value as the third most important recreational and tourist area in Chile; and it will jeopardize the crucial environmental services that the Cajón del Maipo provides, including regulating the local climate and helping to alleviate air pollution in Santiago.

The project is highly unpopular, and it faces mounting opposition from social, labor, ecclesiastic, and academic organizations, as well as artists, unions, and members of the Chilean Parliament. Chileans have taken to the streets to express their opposition and fourteen legal complaints have been filed at the government’s office of the environment; many of those cases are ongoing.

CIEL is working closely with Chilean partners from the Coordinating Committee and Ecosistemas, including by supporting advocacy visits to DC in 2015 and 2017, and joining them as a petitioner on complaints at the World Bank and IDB, alleging violations of the banks’ environmental and social safeguard policies.

Read more: factsheet

Updated February 2017