STOP a Social and Environmental Catastrophe!

NO Coal-Fired Power Plants in the La Higuera Community of Northern Chile!

YES to the Conservation of the Choros/Damas Marine Areas – their Biodiversity is Unique on the Entire Planet!

YES to the Rights of the Citizens for a Contaminent-Free Environment!

YES to Jobs in Fishing, Agriculture , and Tourism!


In the 4. Region of Chile (Coquimbo Region), Chilean and international companies are planning to build power plants, which threaten the lives of the local communities, and the biodiversity of the region.





State of application

Barrick (Canadian)

Punta Colorada


32 MW


SUEZ Energy

(Belgian French)

Punta Barrancones

10 Km north of Chungungo


540 MW

application presented

evaluation of environmental impact (SEIA)




10 Km south of Chungungo


800 MW

application withdrawn

Compañia Minera del Pacífico (CMP) (Chilean)



300 MW

application presented

evaluation of environmental impact (SEIA)


The power plant in Punta Colorada was already approved in 2007 by the regional government, without involving the citizens of the La Higuera region, and in particular leaving out the people in Punta Colorada. The affected citizens, many public authorities, and environmental protectionists throughout the world have expressed their doubts and concerns regarding the environmental compatibility of the projects in Totoralillo, Punta Barrancones, and Chungungo. The company Codelco could not dispel these arguments, and as a result withdrew its building permit application on November 17, 2008.

Even after a two-year review of the environmental compatibility of the plants, there are still serious social and environmental concerns regarding the applications from the companies SUEZ Energy and Compañia Minera del Pacífico (CMP). The citizens of the coastal region fear for their health and their financial existence. The power plants would destroy uncountable jobs in the fishing, agricultural, and tourism industries, in addition to causing a significant devaluation of people's homes and land.

These fears and the serious objections raised by many public authorities in Punta Barrancones have not been dispelled by SUEZ Energy. Even the Chilean Defense Minister Francisco Vidal S. and the Chilean Navy rejected the application for use of sea water and building of a port facility, that are part and parcel to the building of the power plant.

Environmental protectionists throughout the world share the concerns of the local inhabitants and fear the destruction of an entire sea region, which, based upon its productivity and diversity, is unique on the entire planet. That is why they collectively appealed in 2008 to the responsible authorities and then-President Bachelet to prevent this social and environmental catastrophe.


Even as early as 2007 public authorities and scientists repeatedly stated their opinions against the building of these power plants. They documented that these projects are neither socially nor environmentally justifiable, and in addition are economically unfeasible. The destructive results of the building of the power plants have been documented in many scientific opinions from the Universities of Coquimbo and Valparaíso (see attachment).

In this discourse the following connections and consequences are compiled:


Efficiency and Effectiveness


The Chilean economy as well as the government stresses the high energy need of the country, but orients itself too little on efficiency and therefore hardly does anything to save energy. For example, not one of the three planned power plants would need to be built if the mines in the Andes mountains (that are to receive the energy produced by these plants) would reduce their energy consumption by just one percent!

All the planned power plants are to be used strictly for the production of electricity; there is no intent or plan to use the warmth created by such energy production, and it is not possible at the intended building locations. This results in an effectiveness of produced electricity of less than 50%.



Marine impact

The projects of three power plants are situated on a stretch of coastline that is very productive because of the phenomenon of cold upsurge of nutritious, plankton-rich waters. Any impact by the power plants, accidental or by long term operation, will produce very negative consequences on its extremely vulnerable ecosystem; such conditions are not favorable for industrial interference and it is recommended that any power plant must be built in regions where the impact on the environment will be less severe.

There exists a high production of the sea snail loco (concholepas concholepas) in this region and its production represents 60% of the regional total. The high productivity is a result of a combination of factors: there exist various centers of upsurges that results in a high primal productivity of nutritious water. On the other side it is the marine topography that generates a high incidence and capacity of larvae to fix themselves to algae and submarine rocky outcrops. The combination of the two mentioned processes (arrival of larvae and retention of larvae) has a high intensity of fixation in a sector of high productivity ( because of the upsurges) which results in a high productivity of fish and crustaceans. The projects of the power plants are situated “upstream” and “upwind” of the one and only Marine Reserve that exists in the Coquimbo region ( Reserva Marina isla Choros-isla Damas), as well as the National Reserve Humboldt Penguin (Reserva Nacional Pingüino de Humboldt), which in its turn is the major and most important Reserve for protection of the Humboldt Penguin in the world.

Any impact on the Reserves, such as through industrial or shipping accidents, would have a severe effect on this fragile environment. These Reserves are home to 80% of the population of the Humboldt Penguin (spheniscus humboldti) in its natural habitat. This species has been declared threatened according to the IUCN Red List and is included in Appendix I of CITES. Also, by Chilean law it is a protected species.

Besides its high fishery productivity this sector was declared a Marine Reserve because of being the habitat of numerous, endangered (IUCN) species, like the bottle nose dolphin (tursiops truncatus), the seaotter (lutra felina), the Peruvian diving petrel (pelecanoides garnoti), the Peruvian booby (sula variegata), and many others. Different species of whales also regularly appear in this coastal area.

This Reserve represents 40% of all the protected marine areas in the center and north of Chile. Therefore, its contribution to the goal of protection of 10% of the total of Chilean marine ecosystems is very important; the Chilean Government committed to work toward this, within the context of the Convention of Biodiversity (CBD). It is also a pioneer Reserve for Chile and already counts as part of an initial plan of the Administration for Chilean Marine Reserves. Any environmental threat to the Reserves means a high risk to the objectives of maintenance and conservation of Chile's biodiversity and the international agreements adopted by the Chilean Government.

Because of the very special meaning of this sea region, preparations are being made to expand the protected area of Choros and Damas to include a number of important breeding islands. As of the beginning of March, the core phase of the fight against invasive species started as part of the "Conservation Measures Program"

(a safety precaution program). The goal of this program from Chilean authorities, through support from the Universities of Coquimbo, La Serena, and Santa Cruz, California, as well as the organization Island Conservation (USA), is the conservation of the flora and fauna of the islands of Choros, Chanaral, Chungungo and Pájaros, through the removal of rabbits and rats. The cost of the project, to include monitoring for seven years, is expected to be about one million dollars. The building of the power plants in the immediate vicinity of these protection areas would make such plans and investments useless, would threaten biodiversity, and would violate international agreements that the government of Chile already agreed to abide by.

Fact: any environmental threat to the Reserves means a high risk to the objectives of maintanence and conservation of its biodiversity and the international agreements adopted by the Chilean Government.

The power plant “Barranones” presented by SUEZ Energy plans to use 80.000 cubic metres per hour of crude sea water for its cooling system and desulfurisation system. This means that in one year they would utilize 698,180,760 cubic metres of sea water. The power plant would take the water in by gravitational force in huge quantities with all the rich primal production: larvae, eggs of fish and crustaceans, which would not survive its journey through the plant, because of the high temperatures, the high pressure when the water gets compressed and because of pollution by the anti-fouling substances. The water that leaves the power plant will have a plus temperature of 10 degrees Celsius, thus affecting seriously the effluent zone by hundreds of meters and possibly kilometers. The process of taking in water takes place in a AMERB, which is a zone with high productivity; this zone is being utilized by the local fishermen and divers. The AMERB is a protected zone with a class IV category defined by the IUCN.




The emissions of the power plants and the deposits of the ashes during the operation would cause a dramatic impact on the fragile flora and fauna and would cause an extremely negative effect, resulting in the destruction of the local ecosystem. The coal used as fuel would produce carbon nitrate, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, fly ash and solid ash, as well as heavy metals that would pollute the air, the soil, the coastline and the sea even at considerable distances from the center of pollution. These companies intent to build port facilities to accommodate cargo boats of up to 120,000 tons, with vast areas to stock the coal. Any secondary pollution by the cargo ships in the form of diesel spillage would seriously affect the protected areas (AMERB), the Marine Reserve, and the National Reserve.

Social Impact

The inhabitants affected would be: local fishermen, divers, farmers (olive growers), herdsmen (goats), and the people ín the tourism industry. The destruction of the ecosystems will leave these people without an income and without a job.

Uncountable jobs are in danger. The houses and land of the citizens of the area are threatened to seriously decrease in value. Such planned power plants thus massively endanger the material safety of many people. The offer of ten new jobs for skilled workers for each of the three power plants is thus quite cynical.

In addition to the material threat, the health of the inhabitants would be seriously threatened. The people affected reject fiercely any installation of power plants on the coastline, it being an extremely fragile and vulnerable zone.

They demand the Constitutional Right to live in a unpolluted environment and it is the duty of the Government to guarantee that this Right is not being impaired; and the Government must guarantee the preservation of Nature. (Art.19, subpart. 8 Constitution of the Republic of Chile).

This indicates that coal plants in other places must be sustainable and compatible with the environment.


Rosa Rojas G. Gabriele Knauf

President President

Movimiento en defensa del medio ambiente SPHENISCO

(MODEMA) Conservation of Humboldtpenguin




1. Scientific Opinion of the University of Valparaiso, Centro de Investigación EUTROPIA

„Observaciones EIA Termoeléctricas – Farellones“ from October 26, 2007


2. Scientific Opinion of the University Católica del Norte Coquimbo, Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Àridas (CEAZA) „Observaciones al Estudio Ambiental (EIA) emitido por la Empresa Termoeléctrica Farellones“ from November 28, 2007


3. Scientific Opinion of the University Católica del Norte Coquimbo, Abteilung Meeresbiologie „Análisis de los Potenciales Efectos Ambientales de la Operación de Proyectos Termoeléctricas en Ambientes Marinos de la Cuarta Región. Informe Final. from November, 2008


4. Scientific Opinion of Centro de Investigación EUTROPIA , University of Valparaiso

„Observaciones. Informe: „Análisis de los Potenciales Efectos Ambientales de la Operación de Proyectos Termoeléctricas en Ambientes Marinos de la Cuarta Región. Informe Final. November, 2008; from January 26, 2009.







We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.