Thursday, October 18, 2007

Xstrata, Company behind Patagonia Dam Project Criticized in Australia

Xstrata, criticized heavily by a growing number of Chileans opposing the Swiss mining company’s plan to build a large hydroelectric dam in northern Patagonia (Region XI), is no stranger to controversy – especially when it comes to rivers.

In recent months the mining company has struggled to gain Chilean government approval for its plan to dam the Cuervo River. Hoping to begin construction on the proposed 600 MW dam sometime next year, Xstrata submitted a requisite Environmental Impact Study (EIS) this past January (ST, Jan. 5). The EIS did not impress Chile’s National Environmental Committee (CONAMA), which refused to even consider the “insufficient” report (ST, March 22-23). CONAMA did, however, invite the company to submit a second EIS, something Xstrata promises to do.

Local activists and environmentalists, meanwhile, want nothing less than to send the Swiss mining company packing. Not only would Xstrata’s proposed dam be environmentally hazardous to the pristine wilderness area, but – given a barrage of seismic activity that’s affected the zone in recent months – it would also be just plain dangerous, say opponents.

“To do that, to build (the dam) right now would be a time bomb,” Hipolito Medina of the environmental group Ecosistemas recently told the Patagonia Times. “You don’t need to be an engineer, a geologist, a sorcerer or anything to realize that (the Xstrata plan) is a real danger.”

Criticisms against the company, however, are by no means limited to southern Chile. In fact, on the opposite side of the planet – in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) – Xstrata currently finds itself at the center of a separate controversy.

Here is the full article.