The Chilean utility Endesa (Empresa Nacional de Electricidad) has reached agreement with Chile’s Conadi, the commission administering the indigenous people, on the Ralco hydro power project.

The 570MW project consists of a 155m high dam on the Bio Bio river which would flood 5200km2 of land currently occupied by about 500 Pehuenche Indians. Chile’s environment agency Conama approved the project in June 1997, but the project was in limbo until agreement was reached with Conadi on the relocation of the Pehuenche. Endesa had previously offered to relocate the natives and pay compensation.

Since reaching agreement with the Conadi commission, Endesa has restarted work on clearing the access to its facilities and installing a transmission line. It still has to purchase the land that will be flooded during the first quarter of 2002, when the plant is anticipated to come on line.

The Ralco project is expected to provide the Chilean electricity system with some 3580GWh every year.