Chile and coal

From Global Energy Monitor

Chile is a relatively minor coal producer and consumer, with little domestic consumption for electricity and no exports. It is the forty-sixth largest coal producer in the world, with most production from the southern region of Magallanes, home to the 2.3 million tonnes per annum Invierno Mine.[1]

Coal Resources

Coal is Chile’s most abundant fossil fuel resource. The estimated resources of the Magallanes Basin are about five billion metric tons (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, 1988), and resources of the Valdivia-Los Lagos Basin are estimated to be 100 million metric tons. The resources of the Arauco Basin are estimated to be on the order of five million metric tonnes (Helle et al, 2000). The total reserves are about 1.2 billion metric tons, most of which is in the Magallanes Basin, according to Fossil Energy International (2003).[2]

Resource Details

Category Reserve Classification Quantity Units Data Year
BGR Estimate Reserves 1,181 [3] million tonnes 2019
BGR Estimate Resources 4,142[3] million tonnes 2019
Geological Survey Reserves 1,200[2] million tonnes 1996
Geological Survey Resources 5,150[2] million tonnes 2003
Commercial Reserves Reserves million tonnes
Commercial Resources Resources million tonnes

Coal Production

Chile is not a major coal producer. The Invierno Mine is the largest in the country.[4]

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimated that in 2007 only 288,000 tonnes was mined, down from 732,000 in 2005 and only directly employed 696 people.[5] The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2009 Chile imported 680,000 short tones of steaming coal from the U.S., which accounted for the bulk of U.S. coal exported to South America.[6]

In July 2010, the Minera Isla Reisco company - a joint venture between Chilean fuel distributor and forest company conglomerate Copec and the shipping company Ultramar - announced that its new Mina Invierno coal mine, in the country's Southern Region X11, would replace "close to 30% of [coal] imports." It is one of three coal concessions on the island that was privatised in 2008. Along with reserves in Rio Eduardo and Elena, the three sites are believed to host more than a billion tons of reserves (estimated at 1,302 million tons in 2010). The largest of these deposits lies in the Bío-Bío region, which also hosts almost half Chile's remaining forests. A number of petroleum-fired electric generators have also recently been converted to coal.[7]

The coal power project has estimates of a $530 million joint investment by Ultramar and Copec, which has the president as a major investor. President Pinera holds about 800,000 shares in Copec but has argued his stock is held in a blind trust. Critics say the president will still profit from any appreciation in the stock price, as he has done in previous stock movements in Copec since he came to power in 2010.

In August 2011, a specially appointed government commission of Chile gave the green light for work to begin on the first of five mines on the Isla Riesco, near scenic Patagonia, despite accusations of President Sebastian Pinera's vested interests and an opposition campaign. The country's chief national oversight body, the Comptroller General, cleared Pinera of any conflict of interest in the deal but couldn't silence critics. Local residents fear pollution will harm residents' health, while campaigner Chile Sustenable, a non-government organization, said the mines would increase carbon emissions by 360 percent. Opponents of the project plan to appeal to the Supreme Court. [8]

Up to 59 percent of planned new power generation capacity in Chile is set to be coal-based. National Energy Commission data indicated Chile is already the third largest CO2 emissions polluter in South America.[9]

Coal Consumption

Chile was Latin America's third largest consumer of coal in 2019, after Brazil and Mexico. Consumption totaled 13.4 million tonnes in 2019.[10] Coal consumption is expected to decrease as a result of Chile's 2019 national decarbonization plan. The plan called for the shutdown of eight coal-fired units by 2024 - including those at Tocopilla power station, Patache power station, Bocamina power station, and Ventanas power station - with all of the country's remaining coal-fired units to be decommissioned by 2040.[11][12]

In January 2011, it was reported that 48% of the power projects to be inaugurated in Chile between 2011 and 2014 will use coal as the main fuel. More than $13.5 billion will be invested in coal-fired plants in the country through 2014.[13]

Imports & source countries

Chile has historically been Latin America's largest coal importer, with more than half of imports coming from Colombia.[14] Imports in 2019 totaled 10.4 million tonnes.[10]

Coal Plants

In a presentation to investors in March 2010, the main Chilean power generators, Endesa, stated that it projected that there would be "9,400 MW of new capacity during next 10 years" in Chile and that "3,300 MW are already under construction". Of the new supply, Endesa projected that coal would account for 38% of the new capacity.[15]

Existing coal plants

Coal plants financed by international public investment institutions

Coal-fired power stations financed by international public investment institutions include:[16]

Proposed coal plants

Articles and resources


  1. "Coal mining in Chile". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2021-06-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 United States Geological Survey, World Coal Quality Inventory: Chile, accessed June 2021
  3. 3.0 3.1 BGR Energy Study 2019 - Data and Developments in German and Global Energy Supplies (23), 200 p, Hannover, Germany
  4. "Coal mining in Chile". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2021-06-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. Steven T. Anderson, "The Mineral Industry of Chile", U.S. Geological Survey, September 2009.
  6. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "U.S. Coal Supply and Demand: 2009 Review", April 2010.
  7. "Dark Materials: the consequences of clinging to coal" Mines and Communities, Aug. 30, 2010.
  8. Benjamin Schneider "Ministers approve massive coal mine in southern Chile" The Santiago Times, Aug. 15, 2011.
  9. "Chile goes ahead with coal mine project" UPI, Aug. 17, 2011.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Chile". U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Retrieved 2021-06-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. "Chile to close eight coal-fired stations by 2024". Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis. June 7, 2019.
  12. "Plan de Descarbonización y Retiro de Centrales Eléctricas a Carbón en Chile" (PDF). Chile Sustentable. June 4, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. "Chile to Invest More Than $13.5 Billion in Coal-Fired Through 2014" Pumps and Systems, January 2011.
  14. "(PDF) Perspectivas sobre las exportaciones de carbon Colombiano - en el mercado internacional de carbón térmico hasta 2030". Research Group CoalExit (via ResearchGate). August 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. Endesa, "December 2009 Investor Presentation", Endesa website, page 21.
  16. "Coal Fired Plants Financed by International Public Investment Institutions since 1994", Appendix A in Foreclosing the Future: Coal, Climate and International Public Finance: Investment in coal-fired power plants hinders the fight against global warming, Environmental Defense, April 2009.

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