Belo Monte hydropower plant operator slapped by Brazilian feds

Belo Monte Hydropower Project

Norte Energia, operator of Brazil's Belo Monte, has been ordered to pay close to US$4.4 million in "moral damages" to those near the 11.2 GW hydropower plant.

The judgment, awarded by a federal court in Para, stipulates that Norte Energia did not fulfill requirements of an environmental license issued by regulator Ibama, and thus must pay damages to residents in Altamira, Vitoria do Xingu and Anapu.

Norte Energia must also pay to improve sanitation works in the area surrounding the plant.

The ruling comes near simultaneously with an announcement that Brazil's audit court, Tribunal de Contas da Uniao, is investigating Norte Energia for alleged corruption in Belo Monte's tendering process.

Both announcements come just weeks after commercial operations were approved at Belo Monte component Pimental.

Belo Monte was originally scheduled to begin commercial operation in February 2015. Developer Norte Energia estimates the US$26 billion project will be in full operation in January 2019.

The 11.2 GW hydropower project has faced repeated setbacks throughout its development, with a timeline marked by  worksite occupationsapproval cancelationsworker deaths and court-ordered work stoppages.

More recently, a federal court revoked an injunction set by Brazil's Institute of the Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA) denied an operating license for the plant, saying its developer, Norte Energia, had failed to meet conditions required for its approval.

Budgeted at US$26 billion, Belo Monte is being built on the Xingu River in Brazil's northern Para State and will be the world's third largest hydroelectric complex when completed. Belo Monte has a completion deadline of 2018, though Norte Energia filed a request for a construction extension this past June.

A federal court rejected a request in July from from a public prosecutor to suspend work on the project because Norte Energia was accused of failing to consult properly with aboriginal groups potentially affected by Belo Monte.

Most recently, four workers were abducted for their association with the project in March.

For more news from Brazil, visit here.

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