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Chile rejects huge HidroAysen dam in wild Patagonia on environmental grounds

Chile has rejected a $7 billion plan to power much of the country by damming Patagonian rivers.

A ministerial commission Tuesday rejected the HidroAysen project due to environmental concerns. It would have tamed two of the world's wildest rivers and built more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of power lines to supply energy to central Chile.

Environmentalists celebrated the government's decision to protect a pristine area of Andean glaciers and green valleys and fjords.

Most Chileans also oppose HidroAysen and thousands have protested against the project.

The HidroAysen venture is 51 percent owned by European energy generator Endesa and 49 percent owned by the Chilean company Colbun SA. Endesa is a Spanish subsidiary of the Italian energy company Enel SpA.

The company can appeal the decision before an environmental court.