The Supreme Court of Argentina has suspended work on the Nestor Kirchner and Jorge Cepernic hydropower plant amidst reports that the federal government did not perform mandatory studies and consultations.
The decision was made after a group of environmental lawyers claimed the Argentinian government failed to conduct a satisfactory environmental impact assessment or consult with locals before advancing the project.
The government, which will be the majority owner of the Kircher-Cepernic project, is now required to complete both before working on the plants themselves, though the court is allowing preliminary work and site preparation to continue.
The projects, to be located about 80 km apart on the Santa Cruz River in the southern Santa Cruz province, were originally to have had capacities of 1,140 MW and 600 MW, respectively, though their cumulative capacity was lowered closer to 1,290 MW in September to help cut costs.
Financing for the plants is to come in large part from the China Gezhouba Group Co. Ltd., which announced plans to develop them in a joint venture with Grupo Eling SA in August.
Sources report that the projects' modified plans lower their costs from US$6 billion to about $4.7 billion.
The plants have been in development for years, though they have been delayed for a number of reason including incomplete approvals and concerns with their costs.
HydroWorld.com reported last July that MWH Global had received a contract to provide detailing modeling services for the projects. At that time, it was expected that Kirchner would impound water with a 75-meter-high concrete-faced rockfill dam, while Cepernic would include a 43-meter-high dam.
Together, the projects are expected to increase power to the region by about 60%.
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