SANTIAGO, April 5 (Reuters) - A Chilean appeals court has given the green light to a $733 million hydroelectric dam planned in Patagonia, drawing a vow from environmental campaigners to further appeal against the decision.
Lawyers from the environmental prosecutor's office had lodged the appeal, saying the plant's environmental permit was not legal. But the court ruled the permit "had not violated any constitutional guarantees to the plaintiffs' right to life and physical integrity ... or the right to live in an environment free of pollution," according to local media.
The Coyhaique Court of Appeals had previously blocked on a preliminary basis the 640-megawatt Rio Cuervo project, planned by Origin Energy Ltd and Glencore Xstrata Plc in the remote southern Aysen region, to weigh environmental appeals.
Opponents say the complex would harm the environment and would be built above a geological fault line in the quake-prone country. But power-hungry miners and businesses say Chile, which doesn't have significant hydrocarbons of its own, desperately needs fresh energy sources.
The Energia Austral joint venture between Origin Energy and Glencore Xstrata also has plans to build two other generating units, Condor and Blanco.
Such ambitions may meet increasing opposition from campaigners.
Having helped stall around $30 billion in mining and energy projects, some Chilean environmental lawyers say their battle is only beginning. "Projects are increasingly being set up in fragile places. People's opposition is completely rational," Alvaro Toro, a lawyer with environmental NGO OLCA, told Reuters in an interview earlier this year.
(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by David Holmes)
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