Brazil judge allows construction of 1,087-MW Estreito to proceed

Brazil’s federal court has lifted an order that had blocked construction of the 1,087-MW Estreito hydroelectric project due to allegations the project would cause environmental damage to indigenous Indian lands.

Brazil’s environmental regulator, Instituto Brasileiro de Meio Ambiente, said in April it would appeal a Maranhao State judge’s earlier decision to halt construction of the project on Brazil’s Tocantins River. (HNN 4/26/07) Estreito is the biggest hydro project under way in Brazil.

The consortium building Estreito is to restart construction in a few weeks, France’s Suez said in a statement reported by Business News Americas. The consortium includes Suez Brazilian unit Tractebel Energia, Brazilian mining firm Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, U.S. aluminum maker Alcoa, and local construction firm Camargo Correa.

The injunction, lifted June 1, resulted from a lawsuit filed by indigenous peoples rights group Cimi and the Araguaia and Tocantins rivers protection group Adprato. A federal court agreed with government lawyers who argued construction could proceed without causing irreversible damage to local peoples.

Suez said the consortium signed a 155 million real (US$81.3 million) contract in May with engineering firm OAS Engenharia for the first phase of Estreito construction. The first phase is to include excavation and infrastructure preparation for the powerhouse. The project is to be completed in 2010.

In March, Tractebel Energia said it plans to invest 420 million reais (US$200 million) in 2007 to build Estreito and the 243.2-MW Sao Salvador project, also on the Tocantins River.

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