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Chile court orders suspension of hydroelectric dam construction

A Chilean appeals court on Tuesday ordered [judgment, PDF, in Spanish] the suspension of the Punta Alcalde hydroelectric dam project based on environmental concerns. The project is under the management of Endesa [corporate website], an energy company based in Spain. The suit was brought by local fishermen who claimed [AFP report] the dam project would have significant adverse environmental effects and would materially compomrise the fishing industry on which they rely for their livelihood. The project was expected to supply power to the region's expanding mining industry, and the resulting increased demand for electric power.

Hydroelectric dam projects have received significant scrutiny from Chilean courts in recent years. In May the Supreme Court of Chile [official website, in Spanish] issued a ruling [JURIST report] preventing the construction of a new hydroelectric dam in Patagonia over environmental concerns. In April the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that a hydroelectric dam in Patagonia by HidroAysen [project website, in Spanish], a private Chilean venture, did not violate the constitutional rights of the environmental groups opposing the project. In June 2011 a Chilean appeals court ordered the temporary suspension [JURIST report] of the USD $10 billion HidroAysen project, approving three petitions challenging government authorization of the dam construction and granted the plaintiffs' petition for injunction. The court lifted the temporary suspension [Reuters report] in October 2011 allowing work on the project to move forward and spurring a constitutional challenge by environmentalists.

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