Trust of indigenous Mapuche lays foundation for wind farm build
Mainstream's 156 MW Puelche Sur Wind Farm in southern Chile is gearing up to enter construction later this year, with our contractor Transelec already installing the transmission lines that will feed its power to the national grid.
But laying the local groundwork for the project began as far back as 2015, when the company reached out to the surrounding communities and indigenous population in this corner of the Los Lagos region.
Senior Development Project Manager Luis Prieto believes that early engagement has been “essential to the success of the project”, which, as part of Huemul, the second phase of our wholly owned company’s 1.3 GW Andes Renovables platform, will generate enough clean energy to power more than 181,000 Chilean homes when operational.
He explains: "It allows us to tell them about the technology we use, explain how wind turbines work, and through this engagement we can also receive the community’s input. We listen to any concerns they may have regarding this technology.
"They are the people that know the most about the area. We can then incorporate any restrictions that they may have into the project and with their participation continue to develop the project together."
A new film shows how Mainstream’s community programme has focused on the trust-building approaches that will deliver lasting benefits to the local communes of Frutillar, Puerto Octay and Purranque.
Workshops on sustainable food production and initiatives to keep alive centuries-old traditions, have, in particular, helped to forge unusually close bonds with the indigenous Mapuche communities of Peñi Mapu and Los Canelos.
At the blessing of a traditional Ruka, a communal building rooted in the Mapuche’s cultural identity, community spokesman Sergio Millaquén praises the Puelche Sur Wind Farm team "for respecting the Mapuche people", and contrasting the relationship to those with other developers, adds: "We can work together."
He says: "I would like to thank the company for considering us and for not excluding us. We can’t work with companies that come and build their projects and only tell the Mapuche people afterwards that they are going to build, or when the plant or hydroelectric centre is already built.
"For us, this company has had a very important role here, because they have engaged with our indigenous community and taken us into account."
Other successful approaches to local engagement include teaching children about sustainability and how to protect their natural environment.
Schoolboy Martín Rojas speaks passionately about the threats to the native puma population after studying the big cat for an arts project at Carlos Springer School.
And Gloria Rogel, president of the Frutillar Urban Commune Union, describes how workshops on organisational strengthening have been an opportunity for local social leaders like herself to develop as a group, and learn techniques to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts within the community.
Rodolfo Angel, Senior Community Relations Executive, explains that his work is based on the fundamental pillars of respect and good faith.
He says: "It means providing continuous support to local communities through a variety of activities than generate shared value, including environmental education, organisational strengthening, productive development and protection of cultural heritage."
Sebastián Videla, another member of Mainstream’s Community Affairs team, concludes: "Our aim is to contribute to the local economy. And this is exactly what we have been during through a diverse range of initiatives with rural schools, indigenous communities and particularly the neighbourhood associations in the project’s area of influence."