Since 2010, the Chilean-Swedish company Ecopower has attempted to install the Chiloé Wind Power Project in the Ancud commune, Chiloé archipelago. The project encompasses 42 windmills with a total installed capacity of 100.8 MW, expecting to operate during 25 years to supply electricity to the Interconnected Central System of Chile. The project is to be deployed throughout 1,000 ha of the Quilo-Mar Brava area, affecting approximately 5,000 people, including Huilliches groups, which are part of the Mapuche people.
Local inhabitants of the region depend on agriculture, livestock, artisanal fishing and tourism (rural and eco tourism). Opposing voices of the archipelago state that the increasing arrival of large-scale wind power projects such as the Chiloé Wind Power Project would create social migrations and uncertain changes in the region. For example, the Mar Brava beach concentrates artisanal fishing zones, upon which more than 150 families depend. They claim that the project construction would remove the sands changing water courses, affecting the quality certifications that support the commercialization of their products. As happens with fishing, the rest of the economic activities are strongly attached to the local environment. Therefore, the Chiloé project is seen as a threat that would break local economies while creating no alternatives for communities: it only expects to create 220 jobs during the construction phase and 11 permanent jobs during the operational phase. Regarding land uses, Ecopower proposed leasing contracts to people with land titles. However the rest of the population would not see any benefit from such contracts. Furthermore, the area encompasses lands historically reclaimed by indigenous communities that still lack of legal protection against the expansion of these types of projects. Other impacts have to do with the natural and cultural patrimony of Chiloé. There is evidence of at least 16 archeological sites located inside the area of the Project, including Sitio Puente de Quilo I. There is also the Islotes de Puñihuil Natural Monument, that host native protected fauna (Humboldt and Magallanes Penguins) as well as local and migratory birds (acknowledge by Birdlife International and the Chilean Ornitology Community). In a first moment, Ecopower made an Environmental Impact Declaration stating that the project would be installed in an inhabited region, while omitting the existence of protected areas that would be directly affected by substations and the port involved in the project. Local communities then presented three different appeals that where rejected in 2011 when the Regional Government approved the company proposal. One year later, community demands were accepted in the Supreme Court of Santiago, revoking the project and indicating the need to make an Environmental Impact Assessment following the required consultations to indigenous communities under the 169 ILO Convention. The Environmental Impact Assessment was twice corrected in order to include all the infrastructure facilities and impacts, as well as a re-location of the infrastructure facilities. Despite this resolution, local participation for territorial planning and consultation linked to this project have been poorly implemented by the regional government and the private company. Opposing voices claimed that many local inhabitants still don’t know which would be the impacts of the Project. This has created internal division among communities: there are some leaders that have negotiated compensations with the company (supported by a local ONG called Corporación Canelo de Nos), while other communities have decided not to negotiate, refusing compensation and arguing the existence of spiritual, landscape, cultural, archeological, ecological and economic values in the area. In this context, the Council of Williche Communities in Chiloé declared that indigenous leaders and representatives against the Project have suffered harassment and intimidation to negotiate and support the project. This has happened particularly to indigenous women leaders (see El Desconcierto: declaration).
Despite such irregularities, the regional government finally approved the project. Representatives of a local ONG (Centro de Estudio y Conservación del Patrimonio Natural-CECPAN) stated that the resolution is going to trigger the arrival of more wind power projects for energy that will not be destined for local consumption. At the same time, the growing number of mining concessions in Chiloé along with the expansion of other energy projects (including wind, thermal and hydropower) is generating a devastating scenario for the territory. Representatives of the Salvemos Mar Brava Movement have declared they are not against wind power but against the location of the project and the uneven benefits deriving from it.
Latest news on this case (February 2016) indicates that fishermen syndicates and indigenous communities made two appeals to the Puerto Montt Appeal Court against the positive resolution for the project. They claimed the Environmental Assesment Service (EAS) did not take into account their observations while there was a clear irregularity in the process of consultation for indigenous communities (According to the ILO 169 Convention and the Supreme Court Resolution). On its turn, the company, the EAS and four communities supporting the project alleged that the communities which where not consulted are too distant geographically from the project. A conflict between what is understood as “territory” is at the core of this conflict.