Chile gave the green light on Monday to the divisive $3.5 billion HidroAysen hydro-power dam project that promises to ease energy squeezes, despite objections that it will ruin pristine Patagonian valleys.
Chile, the world's top copper producer, is seeking to boost and diversify its power grid to confront rising energy needs and drought-induced energy squeezes, which this year prompted the government to reduce voltages to help avoid blackouts.
Regulators at Chile's regional environmental commission approved the project almost unanimously in a vote in the southern city of Coyhaique, around 1,000 miles south of Santiago, broadcast live on television.
HidroAysen, a joint venture between generators Endesa Chile and Colbun, comprises five power stations and plans to generate 2,750 megawatts by damming two major rivers.
But it must first seek separate approval for a more than 1,250-mile (2,000-km) transmission line to channel power from ...