Saturday, October 13, 2007

ForestEthics Challenges Chile's Matte and Angelini Economic Groups

Their Support Of Aysen Dam Project Will Come At A Very High Cost, Says U.S. NGO (Sept. 26, 2007)

Opponents of a plan to build five large hydroelectric dams in Region XI are welcoming a new partner in their campaign to protect Chile’s majestic, glacier-fed rivers in the southern Chile area known as Aysén.

This week, an influential U.S. environmental group called ForestEthics joined the fray with a stern warning to two of Chile’s largest economic groups: the Matte and Angelini consortiums. The Matte Group is a majority owner of Colbún, a Chilean energy company that, together with Spanish electricity giant Endesa, is planning to build five dams in Region XI – three on the Pascua River and two on the Baker River. The Angelini group has a minority share in Colbún.

“We insist that the Matte Group and the Angelini Group withdraw from the HidroAysén Project if they want to continue working with ForestEthics and its Chilean allies,” said Aaron Sanger, Forest Ethics’ former Chile program director.

Sanger recently agreed to work with U.S. and Chilean NGOs to lead an international campaign against the Aysén Dam projects. Given Sanger’s track record at Forest Ethics in fighting corporate abuse of Chile’s native forests, dam opponents have gained an important new ally.

ForestEthics is a San Francisco-based organization that works to protect endangered forests by drawing negative attention to companies profiting from their destruction. Several years ago those efforts brought ForestEthics in direct conflict with the Matte and Angelini Groups, both major players in Chile’s lucrative forestry and paper pulp industry.

ForestEthics and other Chilean and international NGOs mounted a serious consumer awareness campaign in 2002 that threatened Chilean wood product sales in the United States. The campaign climaxed with the publication of a full page ad in the New York Times lambasting the devastation of Chile’s native forests by Chile’s forestry industry (ST, April 5, 2004). A year later, the Matte and Angelini Groups, together with U.S. Company Home Depot, signed an agreement with ForestEthics committing themselves to protecting engendered Chilean forests.

The highly controversial HidroAysén Project, however, jeopardizes that agreement, ForestEthics warned this week. “ForestEthics believes that this (dam) project will destroy Chilean native forests, thousands of hectares of Chilean native forest, and ForestEthics has invested more than eight years in working to protect those forests. If Angelini and Matte are serious about their commitments to protect those same forests, they will withdraw from this project,” Sanger told the Santiago Time’s sister newspaper, the Patagonia Times.

Here is the full article.