SANTIAGO, March 19 Chile's new center-left
government will decide in the next 60 days whether to axe the
HidroAysen hydropower complex or allow the unpopular project to
go forward, a special ministerial group said on Wednesday.
President Michelle Bachelet has called the 2,750 megawatt
investment, a political hot potato, "inviable" as it stands,
leading most to bet it will bite the dust.
HidroAysen has polarized Chile, with environmentalists
staging massive marches to protest the project they say would
wreck pristine valleys in wild Patagonia while miners and
businesses look to it as a fix for the Andean country's soaring
Ministers will allow a window of time for joint venture
leaders Endesa Chile and Colbun and local
communities to make their points before issuing a final
decision, Energy Minister Maximo Pacheco told reporters.
The $8 billion-plus project has been in limbo for months,
frustrating HidroAysen and environmentalists alike.
Former conservative president Sebastian Pinera essentially
deferred the final say on the project to Bachelet, who took
office last week.
While she has shown herself frosty towards the project, some
in the market latched on to her comment that HidroAysen is
unfeasible "as it stands" to indicate tweaks could redeem it.
Not so, Environmental Minister Pablo Badenier suggested on
Wednesday when asked by Reuters.
"We're not in the stage of changing the project," he said.
"The Ministerial Committee isn't empowered to change the
(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)