Castilla Thermal Power Station, Chile


The Castilla project was initiated by MPX/E.ON, a joint Brazilian-German venture aiming to construct one of the biggest and most polluting thermal power stations in Latin America. The project also involves the development of an associated port to supply fuel (coal and diesel) for the operation of the thermal power station. Planned for northern Chile, the plant aimed to supply energy mainly to the mining industry. Both projects requested environmental permits separately and several irregularities and pressures from the government in the approval process of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the projects were denounced. Local farmers, fishermen, EJOs and congressmen actively opposed the project because of the negative impacts it would bring for health and the environment. Legal measures were undertaken and the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the Castilla project, stating the port and the thermal power plant needed to be evaluated together, and reaffirming the constitutional right to live in an environment free of pollution.

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Basic Data
NameCastilla Thermal Power Station, Chile
ProvinceAtacama Región
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Ports and airport projects
Thermal power plants
Coal extraction and processing
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe thermal power station would have produced 2354 MW of energy.

More than 21 million m3 of ash would have accumulated over 20 years.

More than 280,000 m3/h of sea water would have been extracted and a large proportion returned with a temperature 10oC higher.

More than 1,300,000 m3/h of greenhouse gases would have been introduced to the atmosphere.

Project Area (in hectares)730
Level of Investment (in USD)4400000000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population2000
Start Date12/2008
Company Names or State EnterprisesBrazilian-germany joint venture
Chilean subsidiaries
For the thermal power station - CGX Castilla Generación S.A.
For the maritime port - OMX Operaciones Maritimas Ltda.
Relevant government actorsRegional Health Authority of Atacama, Environmental Commission, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Economy, Intergovernmental Committee for Expediting Investment Projects
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersObservatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales (OLCA), Junta de Vecinos de Totoral, Mesa Social Contra Termoelectrica Castilla, Comunidad Agrícola Totoral, Confederación Nacional de Pescadores Artesanales (CONAPACH), Asociación Regional de Municipios (ARMA), Unión Vecinal de Copiapó, Movimiento Pro Defensa de las Costas de Atacama, Federación de Estudiantes Universitarios, Oceana
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Social movements
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
OtherHealth impacts due to air pollution
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Project cancelled
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.After several social mobilizations and the use of legal avenues, the project was stopped by the Supreme Court. This case is emblematic for several reasons, as the ruling prioritised the precautionary principle, making a decision before damage could be caused by the industry, and deciding for the first time in favour of the constitutional right to live in an environment free of pollution.

Sources and Materials

Constitución Política de la República de Chile

Ley 19.300 & Ley 20.417 (environmental Law),

General Law of Urban Planning and Construction (LGUC), Decree-Law No. 458 of 1975,

Supreme Decree No. 47 by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, under the General Ordinance on Urbanism and Construction (OGUC) of 1992,

Law No. 19.880, which establishes the bases for Administrative Procedures Governing Acts of State Administration Bodies,

Resolution N ° 254, 2010, COREMA III Region


General Controller of the Republic, 2011, Report on the Special Investigation of Regional Ministerial Secretary of Health of Atacama


EIA Castilla maritime port
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Atacama Sin Carbon
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Atacama Sin Carbon
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EIA Castilla thermal power station:
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General Comptroller Republic of Chile Report on Castilla:

Media Links

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TVN News:
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Oceana videos:
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La Tercera Media TV:
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Video of Totoral Community:

Meta Information
ContributorBarbara Galetti
Last update08/04/2014