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Chile's Supreme Court clears 2.8GW HidroAysén to proceed

Chile’s Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the controversial 2.8GW HidroAysén dam after the project’s environmental approval process was challenged by opponents.

The project – made up of five dams and set to be built in Chile’s Patagonia region – received approval last year, but a group of environmentalists and politicians appealed on grounds of legal irregularities with the review process.

Opponents claim the decision “shows that big business – particularly in the energy sector – still trumps environmental, social and even legal concerns in Chile", but they retain hope given the two dissenting Supreme Court votes.

The total cost of the project, including 2,400km of transmission lines – also a concern for environmentalists – is expected to be $10bn.

The environmental impact review process has yet to begin for the project’s transmission line.

“This is the beginning of the judicial battle,” says Marcelo Castillo, one of the lawyers involved in the appeal. “There still are civil and criminal courts to stop HidroAysén.”

The hydro facility is being developed by HydroAysén, a joint venture between utilities Endesa Chile and Colbún.