Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chilean authorities outraged over new leak at Los Pelambres mine

Over 300,000 Liters Of Toxic Liquid Spilled In Latest Accident

(Nov. 1, 2007) Chilean authorities expressed outrage Wednesday when informed of a Friday-night toxic leak at a tailings dam in Region IV’s Los Pelambres Mine. That leak, which lasted five hours before mine officials notified authorities, was disclosed to the press Tuesday evening.

Los Pelambres is 60 percent owned by Chile’s powerful Luksic family and administered by Antofagasta Minerals, the mining arm of the family’s economic empire. (ST, Aug. 23) This is the second time since August that the plant has been responsible for a toxic spill.

“This most recent spill happened during a 40 minute time span at about 4 a.m. As soon as we received word of the accident, we immediately went out to the scene to investigate what happened. Still, we were not able to make it out to the mine until about 11 a.m,” Marcelo Gamboa, the head of Region IV’s Environmental Authority (COREMA), told the Santiago Times.
Radio Universidad de Chile reported that toxic residue flowed from the facility at a rate of 128 liters per second, resulting in a spill of more than 300,000 liters in the surrounding area. Officials believe that the waste traveled some two kilometers before entering the nearby Cuncumén River and its tributaries. A faulty pump, they say, was the source of the accident.

Radio Universidad de Chile also quoted Los Pelambres mine officials, who said the liquid contained 1,500 milligrams of sulfate and 0.2 milligrams of molybdenum per liter - quantities that are highly toxic for local flora and fauna.


This latest spill follows allegations that the mine spewed toxic water into the Cuncumén River in early August. According to mine officials, one of Los Pelambre’s major valves ruptured on August 3, allowing some 5,000 cubic meters of water to leak from the plant to the area surrounding it.

While company officials claim that the leak was not toxic, CONAMA suspects otherwise. CONAMA officials detected abnormally high amount of pollutants, including sulfur, in the Cuncumén River shortly after the accident happened.

“There was a deliberate attempt on part of the mine’s employees to not inform local governing bodies. This meant that samples of the surrounding area were taken too late to have confirmed the spill,” local Dep. Renán Fuentealba (DC) told reporters at the time. He went on to state that the pollution could potentially affect the nearby Choapa Valley’s agricultural production and that dozens of dead fish had already turned up in the river.

Here is the full article.

Photo Credit: Edward Burtynsky, an artist who explores landscapes transformed by industry. Here is his webpage: Manfactured Landscapes.

Pumalin Park founder and Chile conservationist, Kristine Tompkins speaks about corporate responsibility at the Wharton Business School

Leadership, Patagonia-style: Changing the Criteria for Success

Kristine Tompkins, former CEO of outdoor apparel company Patagonia, pulled no punches with the audience attending her recent Wharton Leadership Lecture. Although Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, warned of the dangers of indiscriminate pesticide use as early as 1962, Tompkins said that when she began working full-time at Patagonia in 1972, she didn't understand how the actions of the business world as well as the behavior of individuals "affected the very underpinnings" of the individual, the family and the community. "You know that now," she said, and "the choices you make count more and more." People who can manage "the tough decisions and incorporate" difficult issues into their lives, she said, "are the future leaders."

Tompkins spent more than two decades with Patagonia and its founder, Yvon Chouinard, building an environmentally responsible and socially innovative company. After she retired as CEO in 1993, she and her husband, Douglas Tompkins, co-founder of The North Face and Esprit, moved to Chile and began channeling their respective fortunes into conserving wilderness in that country as well as in Argentina. Nearly 2.2 million acres have been placed in permanent protection to date through their foundations -- The conservation Land Trust, Conservacion Patagonica and The Foundation for Deep Ecology.

Tompkins focused her remarks on the ethical and environmental responsibilities of business and business people. "You are headed out the door -- practically and figuratively speaking," she told her audience. "I think you are really in a tough situation. You are coming out of Wharton well-schooled. You can probably get great jobs" that pay a lot of money, she noted, adding, however, that she hoped her audience would give themselves the "latitude" to think about their personal values and align themselves with work that reflects those values.

"Think hard about what your personal ethics are, what your needs are versus your wants, and chip away at the common cultural norm, which is [to] run out, get what we can -- and to hell with whatever we leave in our path," she said. "Because I don't think you have that luxury anymore."

'Blood-sucking, Bottom Feeders'

In 1976, Kristine Tompkins was general manager of Patagonia, working with Chouinard and his wife, Malinda, to establish the nascent clothing company, a spin-off of Chouinard Equipment, based in Ventura, Calif. A former ski racer and friend of Chouinard, Tompkins had first worked at the equipment company during summer vacations. She returned to work there fulltime after graduating from the College of Idaho with a degree in history in 1972.

That year, Chouinard Equipment, already the largest supplier of climbing equipment in the United States, was experimenting with selling outdoor apparel. Chouinard had tapped into a fashion craze -- comfortable climbing and ski clothing that was "hand-forged" in-house or sourced from European companies. "There were only six of us at the time," Tompkins said. "It was a small company. We wanted to build it to make clothes for ourselves." Also that year, Chouinard Equipment was closing out its signature climbing product -- hard-steel pitons that damaged rock face -- to sell removable/reusable aluminum chocks, marking the first of many times that the company would accept financial risk in order to minimize its impact on the environment.

The Patagonia clothing brand debuted in 1973, its logo based on the skyline of the 11,073-foot Mount Fitz Roy in Argentina which Chouinard and Tompkins' husband climbed in 1968. Tompkins became Patagonia's general manager in 1975 and was named CEO four years later. She learned her job, she says, via "the school of sink or swim -- daily experience. If I have one great trait, it's that I look for people who are the best at something, and noodle my way into them and talk to them by hook or by crook." She collared the best business leaders she could find, including the "heads of giant banks.... I was a very young woman. They probably felt, 'This pathetic little creature! Let's help her along.'"

This was the 1970s, and Patagonia was evolving its own corporate counter-culture. "We believed that all businessmen were corrupt, evil ... bottom-feeding, blood-sucking people," Tompkins said. Yet "we managed to maintain a company that ethically ran in parallel to our own hopes and dreams. Environmentally and socially, we were very aggressive." But to serve as an example of both, Patagonia had to be fiscally sound.

Here is the full article.

The Denial Machine - Should International Energy Conglomerates Formulate Global Policy?

In the past few years, a firestorm has engulfed the debate about global warming. This issue has pitted science against spin, with inflammatory words from both sides. Former Vice-President Al Gore’s recent Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his work on global warming, only served to heighten the rhetoric on both sides of the debate.

Some scientists believe that global warming will not be devastating to the planet. How could scientific fact, which many believe could determine the very future of the planet, become a political battleground, left versus right, environmentalist versus climate change sceptic?

Global warming: potential costs?

A 2006 British report estimated that the projected costs of global warming to be as costly as both world wars and the Great Depression added together. Yet, with such consequences, some scientists still insist that climate change, if it is happening at all, could be a good thing.

The Denial Machine investigates the roots of the campaign to negate the science and the threat of global warming. It tracks the activities of a group of scientists, some of whom previously consulted for Big Tobacco, and who are now receiving donations from major coal and oil companies.

Who is keeping the debate of global warming alive?

The documentary shows how fossil fuel corporations have kept the global warming debate alive long after most scientists believed that global warming was real and had potentially catastrophic consequences. It shows that companies such as Exxon Mobil are working with top public relations firms and using many of the same tactics and personnel as those employed by Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds to dispute the cigarette-cancer link in the 1990s. Exxon Mobil sought out those willing to question the science behind climate change, providing funding for some of them, their organizations and their studies.

The Denial Machine also explores how the arguments supported by oil companies were adopted by policymakers in both Canada and the US and helped form government policy.

Purchase the video DVD here: The Denial Machine

Gold & Platinum found on Beaches: Mine slated for Chiloe Islands Archipelago?

Global Gold Closes Chilean JV Acquisition at Valdivia; Plans to Commence Production in First Half of 2008

Options Two Additional Mining Properties at Ipun and Chiloe Islands in Chile With the Same Partner


Global Gold Corporation (OTCBB: GBGD) is pleased to announce that the Company has closed its joint venture agreement with members of the Quijano family by which Global Gold assumes a 51% interest in the placer and hard rock gold Madre de Dios property in south-central Chile, near Valdivia. The name of the new joint venture company is Global Gold Valdivia. Scott Wilson Roscoe Postle of Toronto conducted an independent review prior to the closing.

In addition, Global Gold announced that it has entered option agreements to acquire 51% interests in joint ventures for the Estrella del Sur Gold-Platinum project on Ipun Island in Chile and another Gold-Platinum property on Chiloe Island in Chile with the same partner, Mr. Juan José Quijano Fernández. These agreements were previously covered by confidentiality terms.

Mr. Van Krikorian, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Global Gold Corp., stated, "We are delighted to be making this major of an expansion in Chile which includes the scheduling of gold production, and expanding gold and platinum exploration. We look forward to many years of successful partnership with the Quijano family and the communities where we will be working. We have had our own geologists oversee and review geophysical, sampling and drilling during our due diligence, and we are now looking forward to implementing our plans as quickly as feasible."

"This acquisition fulfils our mandate of transforming Global Gold into a premier mid-tier gold producer. The Valdivia acquisition, combined with the Estrella del Sur Gold-Platinum project and another Gold-Platinum property on Chiloe Island, offers shareholders exposure to year-round exploration activity on three excellent projects," concluded Mr. Krikorian.


The Chiloe Gold-Platinum Project is at an early stage of exploration. There are numerous mineral showings distributed over 16 separate beaches. The Property consists of 24 groups of mineral claims, covering a total area of approximately 5,900 ha on the island of Chiloe. A number of studies have been carried out to estimate the volume and grade of mineralization at Chiloe in the past. The total volume of the mineralized sands is also reported to be in the order of 200 million cubic metres with an average gold grade ranging from 0.4 g Au/m3 to 15 g Au/m3, and an average platinum grade ranging from 0.2 g Pt/m3 to 4 g Pt/m3. The grades for iridium and osmium are reported to be in the order of 6% and the amount of magnetite in the sands is reported to be in excess of 200 kg/tonne.

Key agreement terms for the Estrella del Sur and Chiloe projects required Global Gold to pay approximately $160,000 to cover government and license fees in exchange for an exclusive option until January 30, 2008 to review, explore, and form joint ventures on the properties. On or before January 31, 2008, at Global Gold's sole option, either or both of the properties shall be transferred to a new joint venture company (or two separate companies on the same terms). For both properties and in consideration for forming the joint venture, Global Gold shall pay 1,500,000 euros (or the Chilean peso equivalent) on the following schedule: 1. January 31, 2008, 250,000 euros; 2. July 31, 2008, 250,000 euros; 3. January 30, 2009, 500,000 euros; and 4. July 31, 2009, 500,000 euros.

Here is the full article.

Endesa expands Carbon Footprint in Latin America - Inefficient and Cheap "Open Cycle" Gas Turbines to be installed in Peru.

Spanish Firm Endesa To Invest $500 Million In Peru Power Sector

Madrid, Spain (AHN) - Spanish power firm Endesa is spending $500 million to develop until 2012 Peru's generation, distribution and transmission facilities. Endesa owns 30 percent of Peru's power sector.

Pedro Larrea, Endesa International's general director said the Spanish energy company will continue to maintain its present financial stake in Peru's power sector. For 2007 alone, Endesa will spend $100 million for its Peru operations. It includes installing open cycle gas turbines at the Santa Rosa thermo plant.

(In Europe Endesa is installing more efficient Combined Cycle Gas Turbines: Green Power Pioneer, ENDESA granted permission to build two 430 MW Gas Turbine Plants in France )

Here is the full article.

How Fossil Fuels fund Patagonia Dams - Endesa expands Carbon Footprint in Europe with Italian liqufied natural gas terminal

Saipem to finalise contract for Iride, Endesa LNG plant by end of November

MILAN, Oct. 30, 2007 Saipem SpA is expected to finalise the contract to build the OLT offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Leghorn, near Pisa, before the end of November, a source close to the deal said.

'The talks have been difficult because of rising costs but they are now in their final stages and an agreement on the EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contract is expected next month,' the source said.

Rising oil prices have been the main reason for climbing costs at the LNG facility controlled by Iride SpA (OOTC:IRDEF) and Endesa (NYSE:ELE) SA, the source said.

Here is the full article.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bank says climate change is investment "megatrend"

BEIJING (Reuters) - Government efforts to tackle climate change are creating a "megatrend" investment opportunity that should tempt even those skeptical about the nature and pace of global warming, Deutsche Bank analysts said on Thursday.

"The climate change markets are being created by governments through their regulation," said Mark Fulton, the bank's global head of strategic planning and climate change strategist.

"Whether you believe the science or not, investable markets are being created by governments, and these investable markets we think will grow significantly over the next 20 to 30 years," he said at the launch of a report on climate change investment.

The bank has attracted around 6 billion euros ($8.55 billion) into climate change funds, which target firms with products that cut greenhouse gases or help people adapt to a warmer world, in sectors from agriculture to power and construction.

It is hoping to tap into a growing awareness of the cash to be made from cleaner technology -- once more a preserve of idealists than hardnosed investors.

"We believe the shift away from a carbon-based economy is a megatrend that will shape the asset management industry for many years," Kevin Parker, global head of asset management, said in a statement.

"We expect return opportunities in sectors like renewable energy, water, and agribusiness will justify dedicated strategies."

The fund is not seeking tiny start-ups or firms with radical environmental credentials. Companies must have a market capitalization of at least 200 million euros and a minimum 20 percent free float to be considered.

Its top ten holdings include French utility Veolia Environnement, Spanish building and construction group Acciona* and diversified U.S. manufacturer United Technologies Corp.

*(Acciona is part owner of Endesa SA: Italian construction firm's Endesa buy seen as first step in business diversification )

Here is the full article. You can buy the book here.

Endesa profits drop 17.7 percent caused by low hydroelectric reservoir levels

SANTIAGO, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Endesa Chile, the nation's largest electricity generator, said on Tuesday that net income fell 17.7 percent in the first nine months of the year due to higher costs caused by a squeeze on its fuel supplies.


Endesa Chile said sales in the nine-month period rose to 1.253 trillion pesos from 1.042 trillion pesos, while operating profit slipped to 380.334 billion pesos from 392.397 billion pesos.

Like other Chilean electricity generators, Endesa Chile has suffered from low hydro-electric reservoir levels due to scarcer rainfall and cuts in natural gas supplies that have forced it to use more costly diesel fuel.

Here is the full article.

Monday, October 29, 2007

IFC to Help SN Power (Norway) and Pacific Hydro (Australia) with funding for La Confluencia Hydroelectric Project in the Tinguiririca River Valley

IFC to Help La Confluencia Meet Energy Needs in Chile

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group has signed an agreement to support the construction of Chile’s La Confluencia hydropower project to help meet the country’s increasing energy needs.* This project will provide clean, renewable power and help lower energy prices.

*(To offset the carbon introduced to the atmsophere by non-compliant European corporations: Chile Environment Exploited to Offset European Pollution And to power the mining industry: which consumes 35% of Chile's electricity.)

La Confluencia is a 158 megawatt run-of-river hydroelectric power plant to be built in the Tinguiririca valley, about 150 km south of Santiago. It is upstream of the IFC-financed La Higuera hydropower plant project, which is under construction by the same sponsors. As the project’s water inflows are determined primarily by melting snow, La Confluencia is expected to dispatch at full load during the dry season when water levels in the system are below average.

The project is being developed by a 50/50 consortium comprising Australia’s Pacific Hydro Pty Ltd (Pacific Hydro) and Statkraft Norfund Power Invest AS (SNPI) of Norway.** IFC’s $208 million financing package will consist of an $83 million loan for IFC’s own account and a $125 million loan for the account of participating banks, including DnB NOR Bank, HSH Nordbank, Nordea Bank, Banco Santander, and SEB.

** (The same two companies which were fined for submitting a false environmental impact statement for their La Higuera hydropower project on the same river: False Environmental Impact Statements induce Regional Environment Commission to Implement Fines. )

Rashad Kaldany, IFC Director for Infrastructure, said, “Using indigenous renewable resources, La Confluencia will help Chile meet a growing demand for power and improve the country’s energy security. The project will also help reduce carbon emissions that are associated with power generation. We are happy*** to continue building our partnership with Pacific Hydro and Statkraft Norfund Power Invest.”

***(Statkraft Norfund Power (SN Power, Norway) which presently intends on "using indigenous" Mapuche land for hydropower: Mapuche Protest against Norwegian Hydroelectric Power , Norwegian Power Projects in Mapuche, Chile Heartland Plunder Environment . It seems the World Bank is back in the native indian exploitation game, this time with a new partner: Endesa Strategy & Tactics I – Revisiting the Ralco & Pangue Hydroelectric Projects on the Rio Bio Bio )

Here is the full article.

Malaysian Bakun Dam development mirrors the hydroelectric development of Patagonia, Chile by European energy conglomerates

Still beneficial? When completed, will the Bakun hydroelectric scheme be able to produce the power expected of it?


BAKUN dam, the controversial hydroelectric project mooted in the 70s, is nearing completion. Temporarily shelved in 1997 at the height of the regional financial crisis, construction is now going full-steam. Its anticipated 2,400megawatt (MW) electricity, once feared to be redundant, is now highly coveted.

In August, the long-anticipated aluminium smelter deal was inked between Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto Aluminium and Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMS). The Sarawak Aluminium Company (Salco) in Similajau, 80km from Bintulu – 60% owned by Rio Tinto and 40% by CMS – is eyeing 900MW from Bakun when the first of its eight turbines start by end of 2009. Salco is gearing up for operation a year later.

(Note: This Aluminum plant is expected to consume 50% of the power generated. )
(Similar happenings in Patagonia, Chile and Argentina:
Xstrata & Transelec Negotiate Cuervo River Dam Project , Aluar Aluminio Argentino SAIC May Spend $3.5 Billion on Patagonia Aluminum Smelter, Dam )



Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) warned that Bakun’s viability has been compromised as its catchment has degraded substantially. Some 320,000ha of forest has been carved out for oil palm and forest plantations, potentially accelerating siltation of the Balui river basin and jeopardising the dam capacity.

Penang-based SAM revealed in June that the state had issued three plantation licences within the catchment between 1999 and 2002, and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports for the projects were approved between 2000 and 2003.

One licensee, Shin Yang Forest Plantation (155,930ha), has begun planting oil palm. The other two, Bahau-Linau Forest Plantation (108,235ha) and Merirai-Balui Forest Plantation (55,860ha), are owned by RH Forest Corporation, a subsidiary of logging giant Rimbunan Hijau, and will establish pulp and wood tree monocultures.

This is clearly in breach of prudent land-use policy within the catchment area, as recommended by the Bakun EIA. We have written to relevant authorities on this matter but have not gotten an answer,” said SAM council member Mohideen Abdul Kader. He added that the government has broken its promise to gazette 1.5million ha of the catchment to ensure the feasibility of the dam.

The Bakun EIA recommended controlled logging to reduce sediment from reaching the reservoir and to secure unpolluted water for the turbines.



A source familiar with the dam development cautioned that with changing rainfall patterns linked to global warming, there might not be enough water during dry seasons to maintain the volume for electricity generation.

*(The problem of dimishing water and galciers in the Andes is becoming a concern throughout South America: When Ice Turns to Water , As glaciers melt, Chile's future uncertain , Chile's Puelo River: Diminishing water volumes impact residents and Endesa dam proponents )



SAM honorary secretary Meenakshi Raman said the EIA has flawed assessments and lacked scientific rigours, and was approved despite the proximity of plantations to the dam. SAM has called on the Finance Ministry, as owner of the dam project, to explain the failure to protect the catchment.

Following its investigation on complaints by two Penan settlements on Shin Yang plantation project, Malaysian Human Rights Commission also recommended that Sarawak reviews the EIA preparation and verification procedure.

(Again the norm: Endesa Strategy & Tactics I – Revisiting the Ralco & Pangue Hydroelectric Projects on the Rio Bio Bio , False Environmental Impact Statements induce Regional Environment Commission to Implement Fines. )


Both Shin Yang Forestry and NREB did not response to media queries. However, in a Bernama report on Oct 9, NREB controller of environmental quality Dr Penguang Manggil dismissed the need for public participation in the EIA process as “the uneducated rural communities could be easily manipulated by certain non-governmental organisations to oppose development plan.”

(Typical: Endesa Strategy & Tactics I – Revisiting the Ralco & Pangue Hydroelectric Projects on the Rio Bio Bio )

Here is the full article.

Chile's Puelo River: Diminishing water volumes impact residents and Endesa dam proponents.

(Oct. 29, 2007) A recent study confirmed that the volume of water in Region X’s Puelo River dropped by 16 percent in the last 60 years – a finding that could have implications for a hydroelectric dam planned for the river.

The Puelo River is among the most important rivers in Chile, with an average volume of 644 cubic meters per second. Energy giant Endesa has announced plans to build a hydroelectric dam project on the river, even though only 33 percent of the Puelo’s 8,817 km sq river basin belongs to Chile. The rest belongs to Argentina.

The importance of the area has prompted studies from various Chilean universities, including Universidad Austral and Universidad de Chile. A research team led by forestry engineer Antonio Lara reconstructed the river’s volumes since the year 1600 by carefully studying tree rings, which provide a natural record for water levels well before measuring stations were established in the area.

“Measurements were taken from about 100 trees, and the result is a zig-zag which shows an overall decrease,” said Lara.

The decrease in volume can be attributed to various factors, but appears mainly due to declining rainfall. “The pattern of decline is directly associated with the decrease in precipitation measured by meteorological stations since 1993,” said Rocío Urrutia, a researcher with the Núcleo Cientifico Forecos of the Universidad Austral. “This pattern is also supported by data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which notes a 30 percent decrease in precipitation between 1900 and 1999.”

Although some decreases (and subsequent increases) in the river’s volume is a natural part of riparian cycles, the intensity of the Puelo River’s most recent lows could be cause for concern for both residents and dam proponents. In 1992, the river’s average volume registered at 347 cubic meters per second, the river’s lowest in the last 400 years. “These changes are associated with climate change,” said Urrutia.

The big question is whether these findings might have implications for current plans to build a hydroelectric dam on the Puelo River. The Endesa electricity company owns water rights for 850 cubic meters per second on the Puelo River, when the actual average is 644. “It seems there may not be enough water for them,” said Lara.

*(The problem of dimishing water and galciers in the Andes is becoming a concern throughout South America: When Ice Turns to Water , As glaciers melt, Chile's future uncertain .)

Here is the full article.

Australian dam proponents try an end run around environmental impact statement

Public given six weeks to analyze 1600-page environmental impact statement, technical reports delayed, public charged exhorbitant fees.

Traveston Dam opponents have asked for an extra two months to analyse the 1600-page Environment Impact Statement released for public comment just over a week ago.

Kevin Ingersole, from the Save the Mary River Coordinating Group, said it had taken more than a week to obtain the EIS and accompanying technical reports and the six-week time frame for submissions was absurd.

Mr Ingersole said the government had devoted almost a year to process but had been slow to provide the documents and then expected the public to respond with lightning speed.

“It’s just part of the ongoing game trying to smash the will of the community,’’ Mr Ingersole said.

“I have written to the Coordinator General and said ‘since this is a multi-billion dollar project and the reports run to a couple of thousand pages and the government has been working on this for about a year, I think it’s unreasonable that we’ve been given six weeks to examine it’.

“We have asked for an extension until February 1.’’

Mr Ingersole was also furious that the government was charging $150 for the EIS and a further $300 for the technical reports, claiming the expense would be a significant deterrent for many organisations and individuals.

Several community groups in the region have expressed the same view, claiming the cost and the six-week time frame were outrageous.

Keryn Jones, from the Sunshine Coast Environment Council, said she believed it was a deliberate ploy to prevent the EIS from receiving the scrutiny it deserved.

“They are bombarding us with so much information it’s impossible for us to analyse it in the time they have allowed,’’ Ms Jones said.

“They know community groups don’t have the resources to give this proper scrutiny, let alone individuals, and who can afford the cost?

“They have made it as difficult as they can for us to assess it.’’

*(Manipulation of Environmental Impact Statements is not unique in these cases: False Environmental Impact Statements induce Regional Environment Commission to Implement Fines. Pacific Hydro of Australia is part owner in the La Higuera Project on the Tinguiririca River.)

Here is the full article.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Endesa Strategy & Tactics I – Revisiting the Ralco & Pangue Hydroelectric Projects on the Rio Bio Bio

How Transparent is Endesa?

Endesa exploits weak environmental protection laws, conflicted national and international bureaucracies, suppresses adverse environmental impact statements, negotiates in secret, misleads investors, diverts funds, files incomplete environmental impact statements, tramples indigenous people's rights, fails to comply with contractual obligations, fails to disclose future hydroelectric development plans, and inadequately compensates affected displaced local people.


Excerpted from: Hydroelectric Development on the Bío-Bío River, Chile


Until recently, the Bío-Bío river cascaded through the heart of Pehuenche territory. Today the river is harnessed by the Pangue dam and the soon to be completed Ralco dam. The hillsides have been stripped of their timber and the river valleys flooded. Many of the Pehuenche–a cultural group often described as the last Chilean Indigenous group to live by traditional means on traditional lands–have lost their homes and are being forced to accept resettlement in the distant and difficult mountains. The Pehuenche had no opportunity to participate in the decisions to dam their river, deforest their hills or flood their valleys. And the Pehuenche had no opportunity to help shape the varied remedies offered by project developers as meagre compensation for the loss of ancestral lands, resources, community cohesion and way of life. Inept planning and inadequate local involvement in decision-making resulted in hydroelectric dam development without adequate assessment of the real human and environmental costs. The end effect is that a small, poverty-stricken band of Pehuenche Indians have been forced to subsidize Chilean hydroelectric power development at the cost of their economy, resources and culture.

Dam Development Decisions and Controversy

In 1989 hydroelectric dam development on the Bío-Bío river was first proposed by Empresa Nacional de Electricidad SA (ENDESA)–a private energy and resource development corporation in Chile. In 1990, the newly elected Chilean government approved plans for hydroelectric development of the Bío-Bío river. Implementing this project would require invoking the Electrical Services Law (decreed during Augusto Pinochet’s regime in 1982) to privatize Pehuenche reservation land. ENDESA applied for a loan to the private-sector arm of the World Bank Group–the International Finance Corporation (IFC)–to finance the construction of the state-sanctioned, privately owned Pangue Dam. ENDESA did not request, nor did the IFC make any reference to, involvement in another five hydroelectric dams on the Alto Bío-Bío river. In 1990 the IFC began appraising the Pangue Dam proposal.

(When first assessing a river for hydroelectric utilization, Endesa typically exploits Chile's liberal mining laws: Environmental impacts of the Endesa El Porton Dam in the Puelo River Basin )

In December 1992, the IFC board approved the decision to invest US$150 million in the Pangue dam project. On 22 October 1993, the IFC and ENDESA signed an investment agreement providing a US$170 million loan to ENDESA to build the Pangue dam, and US$4.7 million in equity for the Pangue project. Both parties accepted the state of New York as the legal jurisdiction. Since the agreement was secret, the Pehuenche had no way to know that arrangements were being made about them. The loan agreement, in addition to containing plans that would determine the fate and livelihood of an Indigenous nation, granted the IFC a 2.5 per cent equity interest in Pangue SA, a subsidiary wholly owned by ENDESA (then a Chilean company). Pangue SA would build and operate the hydroelectric facility. At the same time that the IFC finalized its Pangue funding agreement with ENDESA, work began to develop the initial plans for the second dam, the Ralco dam, immediately upstream from the Pangue.

Development plans and financing decisions occurred despite the many and vocal protests by various Pehuenche, Chilean citizens, and nongovernmental organizations who expressed deep concern over the environmental and social impacts of building the first and then second of a proposed series of six dams on the Bío-Bío. Beginning in 1991, the Pehuenche community and their advocates participated in public protests and letter-writing campaigns, and provided testimony to the Chilean public, Chilean government and international forums. They expressed opposition to the dam project and their desire to retain their ancestral lands. As the years went by and development decisions fuelled the early stages of dam construction (clearing of hillsides, building of roads), local protests continued and were further strengthened with increased references to Chilean laws protecting Indigenous land rights. These laws include the Chilean Constitution adopted in 1990, the October 1993 Indigenous Peoples Law, and the March 1994 Environment Law. Under the 1993 Ley Indigena (Indigenous Peoples Law), the Pehuenche control their lands. The national Indigenous development corporation, Corporación Nacional de Desarrollo Indígena (CONADI), a government agency formed by this law, has the fiduciary right to accept or refuse transfers, exchanges, privatizations or expansions (permutas) of Indigenous lands. And, under the 1994 Environment Law, a similar commission–Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente (CONAMA)–was established to review and approve all development-related decisions affecting the natural environment. The Chilean environmental organization GABB–Grupo de Alto Bío-Bío–emerged as a major force in Chilean politics, educating citizens about the environmental impacts of dams on the Bío-Bío and the importance of enforcing the newly created laws. GABB developed close collaborative ties with a number of international NGOs, most notably the International Rivers Network (IRN), whose educational efforts brought the issue to the awareness of tens of thousands of environmental activists around the world.

Dam development protests citing violations of Chilean national law were dismissed by ENDESA as irrelevant, since the project was approved prior to the formation of these laws. Furthermore, ENDESA argued that under the 1982 Energy Law, the nation’s need for energy superseded Indigenous rights. In response, dam opponents argued that Pangue was designed to work in conjunction with a large reservoir dam upstream (Ralco), that the government should consider environmental and social effects of building two dams before giving approval to build Pangue, that new development proposals should be assessed for their individual and cumulative impact, and that development decisions should reflect full compliance with current Chilean law.

Public protests against the World Bank funding of the Pangue dam were widely covered in the Chilean and international media, and this coverage raised considerable concern among private investors who were brought in following the initial IFC/ENDESA financing agreement. Pangue project supporters, including IFC staff, produced rebuttal arguments describing Pangue as a single, stand-alone dam unrelated to ENDESA’s other dams, and a hydroelectric development project that was located adjacent to but not on Pehuenche lands. Thus, the project reportedly would not involve any involuntary resettlement of Pehuenche. The IFC’s assurance that Pangue was a stand-alone dam, and ENDESA’s assurance that it would only use IFC funds for this single dam, calmed investor fears, and the project proceeded. In 1996, despite long and intense protest in Chile and abroad, the Pangue dam was completed and its reservoir filled.

Endesa Eludes the National & International Regulatory Authorities

The intense period of national and international protest in the early and mid-1990s provoked a wide array of responses. The Pehuenche and Mapuche communities became increasingly politicized by their conditions and experiences, and their place-based issues involving land and resource rights increasingly came to be seen as national issues. National and international nongovernmental organizations developed close collaborative ties to communicate and encourage political action. The Chilean government was continually challenged by the contradictions between rights-protective legislation and the lack of political will or power to enforce the law (challenges that produced significant political fallout). And the World Bank saw its image and actions placed under increasingly critical international scrutiny.

In 1995, in response to Chilean and international advocacy criticizing Bío-Bío dam development and human rights abuses, the IFC hired Dr Theodore Downing (President Emeritus of the Society for Applied Anthropology) to conduct an external audit of the social impacts of the Pangue dam. Specifically, Downing was asked to evaluate the efficacy of the Pehuen Foundation, an organization created by IFC and ENDESA to offset the socio-economic impacts of hydroelectric development. In October 1995 Downing travelled to Chile and met with some sixty stakeholders representing different sides of the dam development conflict. Downing presented the evaluation plan to the IFC, which accepted it, completed his fieldwork in November and December 1995, and submitted his report to the IFC in May 1996 (Downing 1996).

The Downing audit findings supported conclusions that the Pehuen Foundation implemented a programme of resettlement that failed to incorporate the rights of Indigenous peoples, and failed to compensate all affected peoples adequately–in direct violation of the World Bank Group’s involuntary resettlement and indigenous policies. In addition to these and other critical findings, Downing documented those instances where Foundation objectives were being met, and also offered a number of specific recommendations to address past failures and improve the ability of the Pehuen Foundation to address the socio-economic needs of the Pehuenche community.

On 17 November 1995, while Downing was in the field conducting his Pehuen Foundation evaluation, a group of nearly four hundred Chilean citizens, including Pehuenche Indians, environmentalists and other concerned individuals, filed a complaint with the World Bank’s Inspection Panel. This complaint was unrelated to Downing’s investigation. The Chilean NGOs, led by GABB, alleged that the IFC had violated Bank rules on environmental assessment and its own environmental and social policies on dam and reservoir projects, Indigenous peoples, involuntary resettlement, management of cultural property, wildlands protection and management, and project supervision, as set forth in ‘IFC: Environmental Analysis and Review of International Finance Corporation Projects’. They were unaware that Downing had discovered and was reporting the same conclusion from within the IFC. Both the Downing report and the Chilean complaint charged that IFC funds allocated to Pangue SA were appropriated and applied to the Ralco project, in clear violation of the loan agreement and the IFC’s assurances that its loan funds would be used only for Pangue, not Ralco.


In May 1996 the IFC received Downing’s report. According to Downing’s statements, on the day he submitted his report, IFC and ENDESA announced their new agreement to use the Foundation to mitigate the social impacts of Ralco dam construction–especially resettlement. Two weeks later IFC staff submitted a summary of Downing’s report to ENDESA for their approval before releasing it to the Pehuenche in completion of the participatory evaluation. ENDESA rejected the summary and threatened to sue the IFC and Downing if they released the report to the Indians or the public (Downing, personal communication). The IFC agreed to suppress the Downing report and terminated the final phase of his investigation–a reporting requirement included in Downing’s consultant contract that involved disseminating findings and recommendations to Pehuenche and the broader Chilean community.
At the same time that the IFC accepted and then censored the Downing report, in the spring of 1996, GABB commissioned a critique of the Ralco environmental impact statement (EIS). The resulting report prompted the Chilean environmental agency CONAMA to declare the Ralco environmental impact statement unsatisfactory. The GABB critique found that not only did the EIA omit an analysis of environmental impacts, it lacked details on resettlement plans for the more than five hundred Pehuenche who would be moved for the Ralco dam. Subsequent pressure from ENDESA and government officials prompted CONAMA to retract its finding.

*(Such flimsy environmental impact statements are still the norm today: False Environmental Impact Statements induce Regional Environment Commission to Implement Fines. )

Also in the spring of 1996, World Bank President James Wolfensohn contracted Jay Hair, President Emeritus of the National Wildlife Federation, to evaluate ENDESA’s compliance with the IFC/ENDESA agreement (including environmental and social-impact mitigation plans) and review the findings of the still censored Downing report. Commissioning another independent evaluation provided a legitimate excuse to delay the release of the Downing report (a tactic that ultimately kept the Downing findings secret until the Ralco comment period had passed and development plans were approved). Wohlfensohn’s actions also served to deflect public criticisms over the failure of the World Bank Inspection Panel to investigate the environmental and social complaints associated with Pangue dam.

In February 1997, in response to the abundant evidence of project failures and political pressures emerging from all quarters, the IFC served notice to ENDESA that failure to meet the environmental conditions of their loan would result in a declaration of default. Rather than take action to comply with contracted obligations, ENDESA found a way to deflate the power of the World Bank in this affair by seeking financing elsewhere. In March 1997, the World Bank Group/IFC loan was repaid by ENDESA with funds secured from a German private development bank consortium (Dresdner Bank). This action reduced IFC participation to its 2.5 per cent equity in Pangue SA.


The CfHR review was partially enhanced by unanticipated access to the censored Downing report. On 24 December 1997, Downing finally received notice from the IFC that it would not seek legal remedy if he copied and distributed his report, providing that he added a qualifying statement that the report was not an official IFC document. The IFC granted this permission to release Downing’s research findings after the public review period for the Ralco project had expired. Thus, while the CfHR had the opportunity to review the Downing evaluation as part of their inquiry into human rights abuse, the Chilean people did not have access to this critical information when they most needed it. During the eighteen months that the IFC kept Downing’s report secret, ENDESA negotiated resettlement packages with individual Pehuenche families, with the assurance that the Pehuen Foundation would implement the resettlement programme. These assurances were made despite ENDESA having on file the evidence provided by Downing that the Pehuen Foundation failed to meet the economic, social, cultural and environmental needs of the Pehuenche already affected by the Pangue dam, and lacked the technical means to mitigate adequately the impoverishment that would result from resettlement associated with further dam development.

By withholding this crucial documentation on the functional viability of the Pehuen Foundation from the people that the foundation was supposed to serve, the IFC and ENDESA prevented the Pehuenche from making an informed decision about their future.

On 8 January 1998, despite lack of approval from CONADI, ENDESA announced that it would complete agreements with contractors in February 1998 and begin bidding in March 1998 for two civil construction projects: a tunnel and the dam itself. Construction of Ralco dam required the displacement of more than 1,000 people, including 600 Pehuenche from the communities of Ralco-Lepoy and Quepuca-Ralco. ENDESA relocated some Pehuenche on farms in the snow-covered Andean highlands above the dam and others onto downstream settlements. Construction in the area has continued, as have civil protests.

*(The Mapuche are currently under threat from SN Power (Norway) to dam more rivers in their ancestral homelands: Mapuche Protest against Norwegian Hydroelectric Power , Norwegian Power Projects in Mapuche, Chile Heartland Plunder Environment )


The World Bank Apologizes for Involvement with Endesa

In April 1998, while attending the Summit of the Americas meeting in Chile, World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn apologized for the Bank’s alleged participation in the Ralco hydroelectric project in southern Chile, noting that it will displace some 96 Indigenous Pehuenche families from their homes on the upper Bío-Bío river. Wolfensohn said to reporters covering the Summit that Ralco ‘was not one of the high points in the bank’s experience’.

*(The World Bank suspended funding for large dams after this incident only until recently, See: Nam Theun II Hydroelectric Project in Laos)


The Vultures Circle - Post Dam Natural Resources Exploitation

The previously isolated Bío-Bío region is now characterized by unchecked in-migration, land speculation and deforestation. The area has attracted a number of independent timber contractors who give Pehuenche landowners small sums of money, harvest their trees and leave, making the landowners unwittingly responsible for the violation of Chilean forestry laws, which require permits and reforestation. Fines have been levied, and a number of Pehuenche, unable to pay the steep fines, live in fear of losing their land rights or are currently threatened with eviction. As indicated in the previous chapter in this volume and evidenced in recent events, the Ralco dam development controversy continues as Pehuenche communities resist resettlement, protest dam development activities and related deforestation, and deal with the difficult outcomes of increasingly violent confrontations.

* (Exploitation of the Hydro Aysen dam project is already being planned by the mining industry. See: Xstrata & Transelec Negotiate Cuervo River Dam Project )


Exploitation of Legal Loopholes Paves the Way for Hydroelectric Projects

For a brief period of time (much of the 1990s), the international political climate and the operating culture of institutions and corporations increasingly supported endeavours that enhanced human rights and protected the environment (as evidenced by global treaties, social and environmental rights-protective policies, ethical codes of corporate conduct). However, while the nations of the world passed human rights and environment legislation, and organizations like the World Bank became increasingly transparent (see Cernea 1997), a major shift occurred in development financing. The financing of public utilities–water supply, electrical generation, and telecommunications networks–increasingly occurred via privatized processes. By the late 1990s the mode of operation evidenced by the IFC/ENDESA relationship–where public financing was used in private partnerships to fund development projects that first and foremost meet the interests and needs of the private partner–became the norm. What this case suggests is that international development financing through private partnerships require that institutions and agencies negotiate in secret, retain control over ‘sensitive’ human and environmental information, and thus have the means to circumvent rights-protective laws, policies and procedures presently contained in national governments and multinational lending agencies. This case demonstrates a culpability gap–one that is likely to widen in the years to come.

(The Carbon Credits (Cap & Trade) loophole from the Kyoto Treaty is already being exploited to develop Patagonia, Chile as a mining mecca to "offset global warming". See: Chile Environment Exploited to Offset European Pollution )

Here is the full article.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Chile fishermen protest fishery depletion - government crticized for extending “mining industry mentality” to the fishing industry.

Chilean coastal fishermen protest depletion of hake

Chilean fishermen used public debates in the coastal town of Valparaiso Wednesday as a forum to criticize Chile’s fishing policies. The debates, titled “Who sells you fish,” focused on the current depletion of the hake population along Chile’s coasts.

The local fishermen criticized the government for implementing policies that fail to maintain economic stability in the industry and directly contribute to the decimation of fish populations.

The debates were attended by industry leaders, as well as local fishermen working to re-establish fish catch limits.

Local fishermen criticized the government for extending “mining industry mentality” to the fishing industry. This “mining mentality,” as described by president of the National Confederation of Artesian Fishermen (Conapach), Cosme Caracciolo, is stripping Chile’s seas of extremely valuable fish populations.

According to statistics from the Institute for Fishing Promotion (IFOP), in 2002 the estimated hake biomass around Chile’s coasts was 1.5 million tons. Today the figure is just 272,000 tons.

“Our fish haul has dropped by almost 15% over the last few years. The problem lies with the large-scale fishing industry that takes out huge amounts of fish, thereby affecting the biomass,” said Caracciolo.

Senator Nelson Ávila, who voted against fishing limitations, acknowledged at the debates that a modification of the current fishing system is not likely to occur.

“There is a lack of political will to resolve the problems of the fishing industry because the state is trapped in a tangle of interests,” he said. “Conservation today is not oriented to the fish, but instead to the industrial fishing companies.”

Here is the full article.

The Dam That Isn't There - The Story Behind Saving Dinosaur National Monument




This rocky bench at Jones Hole has its own alternate history. If the Bureau of Reclamation had been permitted to fulfill its schemes, the mouth of Jones Hole Canyon would have been submerged under twenty feet of water and silt, held back by a 118-foot tall dam the engineers wanted to build at the entrance to Split Mountain Canyon. The dam would have flooded Island Park, Rainbow Park and every inch of Whirlpool Canyon all the way up to the footings of the Echo Park Dam. The canyons of Dinosaur would have become two giant holding tanks. That's where David Brower steps in to change the course of history.

These days the Bureau of Reclamation is a broken and dysfunctional agency, a mere outlier in the vast labyrinth of the Department of the Interior. But back in its heyday of the 1940s and 1950s, the Bureau was a titanic force, perhaps the most powerful government agency in the Western States. It was the epicenter of the dam-industrial complex: promising cheap hydropower, irrigation, drinking water for expanding cities, water playgrounds, and industrial jobs. Exploiting Cold War anxieties, the Bureau presented itself as internal bulwark against the Communist Peril-even though most American Communists, such as Woody Guthrie, applauded its plan to dam nearly every Western river. In fact, the Bureau of Reclamation is the most Stalinist of federal agencies, cleaving closely to the masterplan of Old Joe who dictated to Soviet dam-builders: "No river should ever reach the sea."

The Bureau's leaders, men like Mike Strauss and the infamous Floyd Dominy, were as arrogant as defense contractors in the early days of the Iraq war. Everything was going their way. They steamrolled internal opposition, like that offered by Park Service chief Newton Drury, vilified conservationists as starry-eyed patsies and intimidated members of Congress who had the temerity to question any of the outrageously priced line items in their budget requests.

The Bureau drilled a tunnel through Rocky Mountain National Park for the Big Thompson water diversion. They built a dam across the Snake River in Jackson Hole National Monument at Grand Teton. They had no qualms about proposing dams in Yellowstone and Grand Canyon. They didn't have the slightest clue that they were about to be coldcocked over their plans for two dams in a remote national monument that almost no one, including the leadership of the Sierra Club, had ever heard of, never mind visited.

The year 1946 was a fateful one for the rivers and canyons of the Colorado Plateau. FDR was dead. His Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, who wanted to designate most of the canyon country of Utah as a huge national park larger than Yellowstone, had been rudely dismissed from office by Harry Truman. The world war was over, the Cold War heating up.

Enter Mike Strauss, the new head of the Bureau of Reclamation. Unlike the previous commissioners, Strauss was a deal-making politician, not an engineer. Under Strauss's direction, the Bureau published its document of doom, a study titled The Colorado River: A Natural Menace Becomes a Natural Resource. The book was nothing less than a death warrant for the Green, Colorado and San Juan rivers. It targeted 136 potential dam sites and envisioned a dam project or water diversion scheme in nearly every canyon and tributary on the Colorado Plateau. Central to the plan were four big main-stem dams: Flaming Gorge, Glen Canyon, Bridge Canyon on the western flank of Grand Canyon National Park and at Echo Park, where the Yampa River meets the Green in the heart of Dinosaur National Monument.


In theory, another 1.5 million acre feet was supposed to flow to Mexico. Of course, the Colorado River no longer flows to Mexico. But the Mexicans did inherit a toxic delta of pesticide-laden sludge.


With the compact signed, the Bureau of Reclamation was primed to roll. They swiftly unveiled their plans for three large upper basin dams: Glen Canyon, Echo Park and Flaming Gorge, followed by smaller dams on the Gunnison River, the San Juan and at Split Mountain in Dinosaur.

Deviously, the Bureau had anticipated that the centerpiece of their scheme, the Echo Park Dam, might generate a modest amount of public outcry because it would flood more than 100 miles of canyon inside a national monument. They had an ace up their sleeve that almost no one knew about it. In 1943, the Bureau of Reclamation had signed a secret agreement with Park Service Director Newton Drury called a "reclamation withdrawal." Essentially, the Park Service had already ceded the dam site to the Bureau of Reclamation. The deal was so covert that the park manager at Dinosaur, Dan Beard, knew nothing about it and when he protested to his superiors about unauthorized incursions into the monument by Bureau of Reclamation engineers in 1948, he was ordered to stand aside. "We see no advantage to be gained now in questioning the legality of the withdrawal," wrote Arthur Demaray, assistant director of the Park Service. "To do so would be extremely embarrassing to the Department."


Meanwhile, Stegner went to work on a book that would become a classic text in the history of environmental politics. Published by Alfred Knopf, a staunch opponent of the dam, This is Dinosaur: The Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers contained eight essays, all keenly edited by Stegner, and a gallery of evocative photos of the monument. The book was hand delivered to every member of congress and nearly every newspaper editor in the country.

"This is Dinosaur" may have been the most potent American political pamphlet since Tom Paine's Common Sense. Wayne Aspinall, the flinty congressman from western Colorado who served as a political overlord for the Bureau of Reclamation, said he knew his dream of a dam at Echo Park was shattered the moment the book hit his desk.


As astounding as their triumph over the Bureau of Reclamation was, it is now clear that the conservationists didn't save the wildness of Dinosaur by preventing it from being flooded by two big dams, for a simple reason: the dam that they consented to at Flaming Gorge continues to inflict terrible ecological damage downstream, robbing the canyons of some essential chords of life. Even today, Dinosaur is being starved of sandbars, starved of organic debris, starved of driftwood piles and spring floods, starved of willows and cottonwoods, razorback suckers and bony chubs. Starved of its unpredictability, its temporality, in a word its naturalness. Through most of its course in these glorious canyons the Green is a mechanized river, cold as a machine.

The fallout from the operations of Glen Canyon Dam have proven even worse. Not only did the giant cenotaph drown the most magnificent canyon on the continent, but it mauled the ecology of the Grand Canyon, as well. The hard lesson is that dams kill in both directions.

Still Brower's accomplishment here can't be discounted. He stopped a dam and built a powerful new movement, a movement that beat back dams in Grand Canyon National Park in the 1960s and enacted the signature environmental laws of our time: the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Even crusty Wayne Aspinall realized that the battle of Echo Park had shifted the dynamics of political power in the West. "If we let them knock out Echo Park," Aspinall warned. "We give them a tool they'll use for the 100 years." By the congressman's math, that means we've got fifty more years to bust a couple big dams. You know the ones. Time to get to work.

Here is the full article along with other links to similar essays written by the author.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Green Power Pioneer, ENDESA granted permission to build two 430 MW Gas Turbine Plants in France


The CCGTs (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine) will entail investment of around Euro 500 million and are expected to be commissioned by the end of 2010. These new facilities are part of Endesa France’s Industrial Plan In addition to this latest permit, in France ENDESA already has authorisation to build three CCGTs in Emile Huchet, Hornaing and Lucy. Combined capacity at these four plants will exceed 2,500 MW.

Endesa France has received the definitive permit to build two 430 MW CCGTs. They will be built on a 12 hectare site in the Lacq region in Southern France. Investment in the new plants, which are slated to come on stream in 2010, will total around Euro 500 million.

Endesa France selected the Lacq region due to its ideal connectivity to gas and water resources in addition to a 400 KV transmission network. The decision was further underpinned by the extensive regional industrial platform and the support lent by local authorities.

In addition to these CCGTs, in France ENDESA already has construction permits for three CCGTs in Emile Huchet, Hornaing and Lucy. Combined capacity at these four plants will exceed 2,500 MW.

Here is the full article.

Aluar Aluminio Argentino SAIC May Spend $3.5 Billion on Patagonia Aluminum Smelter, Dam

Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Aluar Aluminio Argentino SAIC, Argentina's only aluminum producer, may spend $3.5 billion on a smelter and hydroelectric dam in the southern province of Santa Cruz as the company seeks to expand output as prices rise.

``It's a mega-project of really some size,'' Aluar Chairman Javier Madanes said during an interview Oct. 24 in Buenos Aires. (The massive Hydro Aysen project in Patagonia, Chile is estimated to cost 4.0 Billion USD.)

Aluar is competing with other aluminum producers for the rights to dam the Santa Cruz River, Madanes said. The government may award the rights at the end of this year, he said.

Aluminum prices that have risen 89 percent in the past five may keep rallying, as a strengthening global economy boosts demand for metal used in auto parts and beverage cans, Madanes said. Aluar and aluminum producers such as Moscow-based United Co. Rusal and London-based Rio Tinto Plc are seeking to develop smelter projects in areas with abundant energy resources because electricity can be 40 percent of the cost of production.

Aluar already exploits the Futaleufu River in Argentina's southern Chubut province to make aluminum. On the Santa Cruz River, the company wants to build two dams at a cost of $2 billion to provide electricity for a new smelter nearby that would cost at least $1.5 billion, Madanes said.

Aluminum is derived from a dirt-like material called bauxite, and smelting the ore at high temperatures is needed to retrieve the pure metal.

The Santa Cruz River drains off ice-melt from the Perito Moreno glacier, one of Argentina's most popular tourist destinations in the Patagonia region of South America's southern tip.


The company's majority-owned Hidroelectrica Futaleufu dam provides 472 megawatts of power to generate electricity for the company's Puerto Madryn smelter and local communities. The smelter's capacity is being expanded by 130,000 tons a year to 410,000 tons with an $850 million investment. Aluar plans a further $400 million expansion to 515,000 tons a year.

Here is the full article.

Time to ditch Kyoto - Mitigating European Pollution with Patagonia Dams

Climate policy after 2012, when the Kyoto treaty expires, needs a radical rethink. More of the same won't do, argue Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner.


The Kyoto Protocol is a symbolically important expression of governments' concern about climate change. But as an instrument for achieving emissions reductions, it has failed. It has produced no demonstrable reductions in emissions or even in anticipated emissions growth. And it pays no more than token attention to the needs of societies to adapt to existing climate change. The impending United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in Bali in December — to decide international policy after 2012 — needs to radically rethink climate policy.


Kyoto has failed in several ways, not just in its lack of success in slowing global warming, but also because it has stifled discussion of alternative policy approaches that could both combat climate change and adapt to its unavoidable consequences. As Kyoto became a litmus test of political correctness, those who were concerned about climate change, but sceptical of the top-down approach adopted by the protocol were sternly admonished that "Kyoto is the only game in town". We are anxious that the same mistake is not repeated in the current round of negotiations.


In practice, Kyoto depends on the top-down creation of a global market in carbon dioxide by allowing countries to buy and sell their agreed allowances of emissions. But there is little sign of a stable global carbon price emerging in the next 5–10 years. Even if such a price were to be established, it is likely to be modest — sufficient only to stimulate efficiency gains. Without a significant increase in publicly funded research and development (R&D) for clean energy technology and changes to innovation policies, there will be considerable delay before innovation catches up with this modest price signal.

On present trends, for another 20 years, the world will continue installing carbon-intensive infrastructure, such as coal power plants, with a 50-year lifetime. If climate change is as serious a threat to planetary well-being as we have long believed it to be, it is time to interrupt this cycle.

Social scientists understand how path-dependent systems arise; but no one has yet determined how to deliberately unlock them. When change does occur it is usually initiated by quite unexpected factors. When single-shot solutions such as Kyoto are attempted, they often produce quite unintended, often negative consequences. The many loopholes that have enabled profiteers to make money from the Clean Development Mechanism, without materially affecting emissions, are examples. Therefore, there can be no silver bullet — in this case the top-down creation of a global carbon market — to bring about the desired end.


There is no precedent for imposing a global trading system from above. First, lessons need to be learned from regional experiments with trading. The European Union Emission Trading Scheme confined itself to trading only in carbon, but then made the fatal error of allowing governments unrestricted powers to allocate allowances instead of auctioning a limited supply, leading to a collapse in the price. The Chicago Climate Exchange is successfully trading a basket of gases, but participation is voluntary. Eventually, different trading systems could evolve and link up as sensible standard practices emerge, giving rise to a global market. But in the final analysis, cap-and-trade cannot deliver the escape velocity required to get investment in technological innovation into orbit, in time. That calls for something else.

Here is the full article.

Is Global Dimming masking the full extent of Global Warming?

We are all seeing rather less of the Sun.

Scientists looking at five decades of sunlight measurements have reached the disturbing conclusion that the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth's surface has been gradually falling. Paradoxically, the decline in sunlight may mean that global warming is a far greater threat to society than previously thought.

The effect was first spotted by Gerry Stanhill, an English scientist working in Israel. Comparing Israeli sunlight records from the 1950s with current ones, Stanhill was astonished to find a large fall in solar radiation. "There was a staggering 22% drop in the sunlight, and that really amazed me," he says.

Intrigued, he searched out records from all around the world, and found the same story almost everywhere he looked, with sunlight falling by 10% over the USA, nearly 30% in parts of the former Soviet Union, and even by 16% in parts of the British Isles. Although the effect varied greatly from place to place, overall the decline amounted to 1-2% globally per decade between the 1950s and the 1990s.

Gerry called the phenomenon global dimming, but his research, published in 2001, met with a sceptical response from other scientists. It was only recently, when his conclusions were confirmed by Australian scientists using a completely different method to estimate solar radiation, that climate scientists at last woke up to the reality of global dimming.

Dimming appears to be caused by air pollution. Burning coal, oil and wood, whether in cars, power stations or cooking fires, produces not only invisible carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming) but also tiny airborne particles of soot, ash, sulphur compounds and other pollutants.

This visible air pollution reflects sunlight back into space, preventing it reaching the surface. But the pollution also changes the optical properties of clouds. Because the particles seed the formation of water droplets, polluted clouds contain a larger number of droplets than unpolluted clouds. Recent research shows that this makes them more reflective than they would otherwise be, again reflecting the Sun's rays back into space.

Here is the full article.

Geothermal Exploration in Chile's Chillan Hot Springs

(Oct. 26, 2007) The National Geothermal Corporation (Empresa Nacional de Geotermia S.A.) will begin construction next month on a geothermal energy plant located near Chillan. It will extract energy through the same sources that generate thermal water and fumaroles near the famed resort city.

The US$9 million project is expected to generate enough energy to supply all of Chillan and is to be completed in 2010. The project will require digging two holes 2,500 meters deep and will use the escaping vapors to generate electricity.

“This uses water that is deeply buried, so it doesn’t affect the surface water or generate waste,” said Carlos Almanza, regional minister of mining.

Although the cost of the project is quite high, the results could be very positive: if the water reaches temperatures above 300 C (572 F), it could generate 40 megawatts, enough energy for Chillan’s 172,225 residents.

Here is the full article.

As glaciers melt, Chile's future uncertain

SAN JOSE DE MAIPO, Chile -- With a population of 16 million people, Chile doesn't produce much of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. But it's paying the price.

Giant glaciers are disappearing. Mudslides are becoming more common. Snow no longer falls in the spring, replaced instead by tepid rains.

In May, an entire lake in southern Chile disappeared practically overnight after the Tempano Glacier, which had acted as a dam, melted and destabilized.

And the changes aren't limited to Chile. Neighboring Argentina faces droughts near its side of the Andes due to dropping rain levels. Shrinking glaciers in Bolivia are threatening water supplies in some towns.

''What's happening in Argentina is very similar to what's happening in Chile,'' said Mario Nuñez, director of the Argentine Sea and Atmosphere Investigations Center. ``We're all trying to prepare for an uncertain future.''


''Without a doubt, global warming is the cause,'' said Gino Casassa, a researcher at the nonprofit Center of Scientific Studies and a member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. ``The only question now is what will be the effects for Chile over the next decades.''

The answers have been coming in at an alarming rate as scientists scramble to record the changes happening up and down the country's Andean spine.

Chilean researchers have found that more than half of the 120 glaciers they monitor are shrinking, with many disappearing at twice the rate recorded just a decade ago. That includes glaciers near the capital of Santiago that provide water to the city's 6 million residents.

In central Chile, where most of the population lives, the altitude at which snow begins to fall rose by 400 feet in the winter and more than 650 feet in the summer between 1975 and 2001. Rain has fallen, instead, causing the snow pack to shrink and triggering erosion on many mountains.

Average temperatures in the region over the past century have risen by half a degree, producing a rise in water levels in the short term but likely to lead to shortages when the glaciers are gone, Casassa said.

Adding to Chile's worries, rain levels are dropping in the Patagonian south, where many of the country's hydroelectric dams are located.

''It's like we're killing the goose that laid the golden egg,'' said Jorge Quinteros, 75, who researches snow and water levels for Chile's government. ``Rivers are growing like they never did, and they'll continue growing for a few years, but when the glaciers are gone, then what?''

Here is the full article.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

We Must Seek Alternatives to the Aysén Dams

SANTIAGO, Oct 25 (Tierramérica) - Alternatives must be sought to building the five big hydroelectric dams planned by the HidroAysén company in Chile's Patagonia region, says Fernando Ávila, executive director of the Association of Companies and Professionals for the Environment, AEPA, in this Tierramérica interview.

The attorney is convinced that companies can make economic profits compatible with environmental protection.

He is enthusiastic in talking about the innovations in "clean production" presented in Santiago during the first Latin American Conference on the Environment, organised Oct. 17-20 by AEPA and two other groups.

Founded in 1999 and including 70 companies that provide environmental services, and eight embassies, AEPA is "a bridge between authority and productive companies," according to Ávila.

His interest in sustainable development arose when he was project director of the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe, based in Lisbon, Portugal. After 22 years there, he returned to Chile in 1997, when the Law on the Environment had already been approved, which in his opinion marked "a before and after" in Chile because it required companies to present environmental impact studies.

Today what is needed is a "centre for environmental technologies -- public-private -- which has the technical authority to resolve conflicts," he says.

Excerpts from the recent conversation Ávila had with Tierramérica's Daniela Estrada in Santiago:


TIERRAMÉRICA: What do you think about the controversial project of the HidroAysén company for building five dams in Patagonia?

FA: I'm not going to speak for AEPA. I believe there are other possible solutions to avoid building the dams. If it were to serve southern Chile, perhaps it would be a good thing, but to have to set up 2,000 kilometres of cables to bring more energy to this monster that is the Metropolitan Region (Santiago) is lack of respect for the country.

Here is the full article.

Lighting Up Europe - Are Enel, E.ON & Endesa serious about fighting global warming?


The Russian electricity sector has had a tough time over the past few decades. During the Soviet era, power generation played catch up with the power-hungry heavy industry favored by Soviet planners. The 1990s might have brought a respite, as demand for electricity slumped during economic collapse, but instead, nose-diving customer solvency turned the electricity sector into a Kafkaesque charade of non-payments and barter.

The powerful economic revival gripping Russia since 2000 replaced this set of problems with yet another: Decades of underinvestment in conjunction with price regulation meant that soaring demand for electricity looked set to outstrip capacity. In 2006 alone, electricity consumption in Russia increased by 4.2 percent, more than double the official government forecast, reaching 97 percent of capacity. Electricity monopolist UES anticipates consumption tripling by 2020.

Analysts estimate that between $30-$60 billion of capital investment in the power sector will be required to avert acute electricity shortages within the next five years. According to some estimates, the electricity sector’s total investment requirement from 2007 to 2030 will be at about $350 billion, 1.9 percent of the country’s GDP over the period.

Without this investment, the Soviet-era electricity sector will strangle industrial growth as surely as Moscow’s Soviet-era road network has snarled up the city’s traffic.



And the plan seems to be working – and not just for Russian conglomerates diversifying into the sector. What caused the Russian business world to buzz in 2007 was the arrival of major European energy concerns on the Russian power generation scene, bringing with them not only sizeable war chests for further acquisitions and investment, but extensive know-how in energy markets and state-of-the-art technology.

Refuting the skeptics, in early June 2007, Italian energy giant Enel purchased 25.03 percent of WGC-5 for $1.5 billion, paying a 15 percent premium over the market price. Enel will now spend a further $3.88 billion buying the company’s remaining shares, giving complete control of 5.8 percent of Russia's thermal power generation.

Then in September, Enel’s sparring partner on the European market, Germany’s E.ON, paid $3.9 million for 40 percent of WGC-4.

Following the Russian authorities’ unfriendly behavior to foreign investors in the Sakhalin projects, Russia’s readiness to part with large chunks of its generating assets raised eyebrows – as did foreigners’ readiness to buy them.

If Russia’s willingness was dictated by a looming power shortage, what moved foreign energy giants to get major exposure to such a dilapidated sector of the economy?



With organic growth and European acquisitions equally difficult, Enel and E.ON, in their frantic search for acquisitions, to swallow or be swallowed, have now turned their attention to Russia.

While such spending, according to Derek Weaver, is speculative, there is also a hidden strategic element – connected to gas, not electricity. Both companies’ domestic power generation is heavily dependent on gas, while supply security is looking increasingly shaky. “Gas is ultimately their main interest in Russia,” says Weaver. Both companies are already engaged in gas extraction in Russia – in itself no mean feat. Since reforming the electricity sector will free up gas for export, they are as much partners as competitors of Gazprom in the power sector. They might count on later appreciation of this from the Russian giant, of which E.ON already owns 6 percent. Such appreciation could mean priority status in terms of securing gas supplies, and even favored status as partners in exploiting Russian gas fields.

Here is the full article.

Be wary of complex carbon caps

The global-warming fight can't wait to work out the kinks in a cap-and-trade scheme.

Congress may move soon to tackle global warming. The boldest action in play would set limits on carbon emissions while allowing cleaner companies to sell "permits" to the worse polluters. But lawmakers should be wary: Europe's record with "cap and trade" is wobbly, at best.

One leading bill, sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I) and John Warner (R), sets a cap-and-trade provision for the industries – transportation, electric generation, and manufacturing – that account for about three-quarters of all greenhouse-gas emissions. It aims to reduce US emissions by 63 percent from 2005 levels by 2050. That's less than the 80 percent cut, based on 1990 emissions, that many environmentalists say is needed, but is still a significant amount.

In most uses, traditional fossil fuels (oil and coal) are still far more abundant and inexpensive than cleaner alternatives (solar, wind, etc.), although their prices don't reflect environmental and health damages.

Under the Lieberman-Warner bill, the caps would be set by granting each company a permit to pollute a certain amount of carbon. At first, most permits would cost nothing. After a few years, such permits to pollute would be auctioned off to the highest bidder, creating a trading market in permits and thus a financial incentive to pollute less.

Politicians like the system better than a straight tax on carbon emissions because it's difficult to estimate the higher cost to consumers of industry paying to meet the caps. Indeed, though, depending on the severity of the government cap, this system puts a cost to every ton of emissions.

A company with high emissions, say a coal-fired power plant, would buy permits to emit CO2 as it invests in cleaner technology in preparation for lower caps. A company that emits less carbon could sell some of its permits, rewarding clean operation. In theory, overall emissions are reduced, while leaving companies free to devise their own strategies for playing the cap-and-trade game.

In practice, however, the details are tricky for both government and business, as experienced by the European Union since 2005 with its cap-and-trade plan.

Industry lobbyists were able to punch loopholes in the EU's complex system. The EU ended up handing out far too many free permits: Their value plummeted from more than $30 a ton to about $1 last year, hurting the incentive. In industries that were hit by caps, many moved production outside the EU, taking their polluting ways with them.

Even proponents of the other major international cap-and-trade experiment, the Kyoto Protocol, a worldwide carbon-trading system among 160 countries set up in 1997, agree its carbon-cutting results have been modest at best. And reports of fraud and other problems with trading permits have cast doubt on its effectiveness.

Here is the full article. And cartoon source.