The project – to be developed by Chile’s Endesa and the Spanish firm Colbun SA – will involve the construction of five plants on two rivers, two on the Baker river and three on the Pascua river, with annual average electricity production of 18,430GWh. All five schemes would require reservoirs to be built.

At a meeting on Monday, the Aysén Environmental Review Commission approved the scheme following a three-year environmental review.

The project is seen as by Chile’s government as key to satisfying the country’s growing energy news. Environmental groups have strongly opposed the project however, claiming it will endanger pristine forests and destroy wilderness areas of Patagonia. This week, thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the scheme.