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Punta de Choros: Overview

Along Chile’s north-central coast, in the region of Coquimbo, lies Punta de Choros, where a wealth of marine wildlife congregates as a result of a nutrient-rich coastal upwelling buoyed by the Humboldt Current.

This biodiversity hotspot includes 80 percent of the world’s endangered Humboldt penguins, plus marine mammals, marine birds, blue whales and sea otters, among others species.

In two dramatic victories, Oceana Chile successfully blocked the construction of two thermoelectric coal-fired power plants in this sensitive area. The two plants, known as Barrancones and Cruz Grande, would have been built less than 12 miles from Punta de Choros and the marine reserves there. These plants posed a multitude of threats to the area’s marine habitats and wildlife.

The plants would have used seawater as a coolant, discharging it back into the ocean at higher temperatures, killing some sea life. Oil spills from ships carrying coal to the plants would seep there in a few hours, and the local currents would retain the pollution within the area. Plus, mercury emissions from the plants would contaminate fish and mollusks like the Chilean abalone, damaging a crucial local industry. Plus, the carbon emissions from the plant would contribute to the global climate crisis.

In August of 2010, Oceana scored a major victory when Chilean President Sebastiàn Piñera announced that the Barrancones plant would be relocated. Then, in March 2011, the CAP company announced that it was withdrawing its plans to construct the Cruz Grande thermoelectric power plant.

Oceana is now calling on the Chilean government to speed up the designation of a Marine Protected Area in La Higuera and Chañaral Island in Northern Chile, and to promote renewable energy sources to gradually replace coal-fired power plants.