Chile officials approve HidroAysen electric dam project

Hundreds of protesters gather in the city of Coihaique in Patagonia Environmentalists say the planned dams threaten wildlife

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Regulators in Chile have given the go-ahead for a controversial dam project in the south of the country.

The HidroAysen project in Patagonia, worth more than $3bn (£1.8m), still needs final approval from government ministers.

The dams are to be constructed on the Baker and Pascua rivers and are designed to generate 2,750MW of power.

But environmentalists say the five new dams will destroy swathes of land and threaten endangered species.

They say about six-thousand hectares of Patagonian forest will be flooded if the dams are built.

As the decision to build the dams was announced, hundreds of activists clashed with police in the city of Coihaique in Patagonia, where regulators had voted on the issue.

Correspondents say Chile's council of ministers is unlikely to oppose the project, which is supported by the government.

It argues that the dams will provide enough power to cover a third of central Chile's energy needs.

But correspondents add that a future sticking point could be approval to build more than 2,000km (1,200 miles) in power lines from the capital Santiago to the dams.

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