Grupo Matte Initiates Blasting on Chile's San Pedro River

New design plans for San Pedro project that were approved without environmental review
New design plans for San Pedro project that were approved without environmental review
The Chilean energy company Colbún, controlled by the Matte Group and partner with Endesa in the HidroAysén mega-project, has initiated blasting at the site on the San Pedro River where they intend to build a 144 MW dam.

The dam would flood more than 12 kilometers of a river winding through rare Valdivian Temperate Rainforest, putting a unique fish species on the extinction chopping block--as well as irrevocably changing the local communities chosen economic pursuits.

It is important to remember that this project is being pushed in the Valdivia River watershed, and in 1960 Valdivia was host to the largest earthquake ever recorded.

We received the news of the blasting yesterday from rafting guide and tourism operator Roberto Coronado, who said that he received a phone call from a Colbún executive that the river was no longer accessible to the boating community as blasting was to begin Wednesday at 1 PM.

“It was one of the worst things I’d heard in my entire life,” said Roberto. “My family and I have been connected to the river our entire lives. I swear I cried yesterday afternoon, because this is just too much.”

The San Pedro project is featured in the article Chile's Endangered Rivers in the new Latin America Issue of World Rivers Review. The Patagonia Campaign has been focused on the enormous threat of the HidroAysén project to Chile's largest and wildest rivers in the Aysén Region of Patagonia, yet we have been concerned about the fraudelent process of environmental review of other projects and the negative repercussions for Chile's rivers, and for Chile's young democracy.

The San Pedro project, with a highly questionable review and approval process, was also permitted to change the project design with no further review. Panguipulli Mayor Alejandro Koehler, featured in the article Chile's Endangered Rivers, said yesterday that the Matte Group has begun an "environmental massacre" that will "irreversibly change the local economy and professional pursuits of the people who live in the watershed."

We at the Patagonia Campaign of International Rivers oppose the initiation of work on the San Pedro project as a gross example of the destructive "open season" that is being waged on the rivers of southern Chile.

The Matte Group, which controls the energy company Colbún, sells millions of dollars of their CMPC wood products every year through the giant US retailer The Home Depot. The development of the San Pedro project and the threat that this project presents to Chile's rivers and native forests confirms our position that The Home Depot must stop selling CMPC wood products or be prepared to pay the price of doing business with interests that violate their environmental committments.

Stay tuned to this blog for updates on the San Pedro River situation.