Chile and coal

From Global Energy Monitor

Chile has a relatively minor coal industry with little domestic consumption for electricity and no exports. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that in 2007 only 288,000 tonnes was mined, down from 732,000 in 2005 and only directly employed 696 people.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3]

Coal mining

The USGS lists coal mines that were operating in 2007 as being:[1]

Company Mine Region Tonnes mined in 2007
Empresa Nacional del Carbon S.A. (ENACAR) Trongol coal mine near Curanilahue, and plant at Lota Region VIII 100,000
Carbonifera Victoria de Lebu S.A. (99.9% owned by ENACAR) La Fortuna coal mine near Lebu Region VIII Not available
Inmobiliaria e. Inversiones Valle Hermoso Ltd Santa Fe 2 coal mine near Curanilahue, Region VIII Not available
Chabunco S.A. Bish coal mine, Magallanes Region XII 600,000

New coal mines

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.[4]

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. [5]

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.[6]

Coal fired-power stations

In a presentation to investors in March 2010, the main Cheilean 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.[7]

Existing coal fired power stations

Coal-fired power stations financed by international public investment institutions

Coal-fired power stations financed by international public investment institutions include:[8]

Proposed coal-fired power stations

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 Steven T. Anderson, "The Mineral Industry of Chile", U.S. Geological Survey, September 2009.
  2. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "U.S. Coal Supply and Demand: 2009 Review", April 2010.
  3. "Chile to Invest More Than $13.5 Billion in Coal-Fired Through 2014" Pumps and Systems, January 2011.
  4. "Dark Materials: the consequences of clinging to coal" Mines and Communities, Aug. 30, 2010.
  5. Benjamin Schneider "Ministers approve massive coal mine in southern Chile" The Santiago Times, Aug. 15, 2011.
  6. "Chile goes ahead with coal mine project" UPI, Aug. 17, 2011.
  7. Endesa, "December 2009 Investor Presentation", Endesa website, page 21.
  8. "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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