Brazil's Belo Monte Dam

Sacrificing the Amazon and its Peoples for Dirty Energy

Traditional fishing in the Xingu. Photo Credit: Christian Poirier


The Brazilian Government is building the world's third largest hydroelectric dam on one of the Amazon's major tributaries, the Xingu River. The Belo Monte Dam complex is designed to divert 80% of the Xingu River's flow, devastating an area of over 1,500 square kilometers of Brazilian rainforest while resulting in the forced displacement of between 20,000 - 40,000 people. The project is causing grave and direct impacts to the land and livelihood of thousands of riverine and urban families, as well as 1,000 indigenous people from several communities, while provoking profound indirect impacts throughout the Xingu basin's communities, rivers, and forests.

No one knows the true cost of the Belo Monte Dam. What is clear is that Belo Monte will be one of the largest, most devastating infrastructure projects ever built in the Amazon. As its costs rocket above all previous estimates and the full extent of its impacts across a broad swath of the Amazon become more evident, it grows clearer than ever that Brazil doesn't need Belo Monte, and that the project will bring destruction – not development – to a unique region.

Recent technical studies concerning Brazil's electricity sector demonstrate viable opportunities to implement new energy efficiency standards and adopt energy alternatives with low socio-environmental and financial costs when compared with hydroelectric dams.1 However, the Brazilian government has shown itself unwilling to debate its highly flawed energy model that aims to sacrifice the last remaining wild rivers of the Amazon.

Project Background

The Belo Monte Dam is a project heralding from the era of Brazil's military dictatorship when its first project design – known then as the Kararaô Complex, a plan for seven major dams along the Xingu and Iriri Rivers – was defeated by a coalition of indigenous groups and environmentalist organizations in 1989. The project was redesigned and revived in 2003 by the Lula administration and approved by the Brazilian Congress in 2005.

Legal and political controversies have surrounded the push to build the dam, including inadequate environmental impact assessment and a failure to implement mitigation plans to protect the environment and rights of affected communities. Nevertheless, acting under intense political pressure that saw the resignation of the agency's president and contradicted the technical evaluations of its own staff, Brazil's Federal Environmental Agency (IBAMA) approved the dam's environmental license February 2010, allowing the project's auction to proceed.2

In April 2010, the government offered the project to the Norte Energia, S.A. consortium, composed of the state-owned company Eletrobras and its subsidiaries Eletronorte and Chesf, public pension funds, among a handful of other small companies.3 The global mining giant Vale joined the consortium some months later, and construction giants Odebrecht, Andrade Gutierrez, and Camargo Corrêa joined CCBM, the construction firm responsible for building the dam. Shortly following the auction, Belo Monte's economic viability was challenged in an influential risk scenario analysis report4, while critics highlighted the lack of private capital in the project, demonstrating that the dam was considered a toxic investment: state-owned or state-controlled participation in the consortium totals 77.5 percent, dwarfing the role of private sector investors.5

Again violating Brazilian environmental legislation, IBAMA granted the consortium a "partial installation license" in January 2011, allowing the dam's initial construction activities to proceed.6 In February 2011, Norte Energia signed a contract worth 500 million euros with a consortium that includes the Austrian corporation Andritz Hydro, French Alstom, and German Voith to supply critical power equipment including fourteen 611 MW Francis turbine-generator sets and the six smaller Bulb units7, highlighting the corporate malfeasance of international interests in the mega-dam.

The dam's definitive installation license was the granted in June 2011, moving the project into an accelerated construction phase that continues to this day.8 The Belo Monte Complex is expected to begin operating at partial capacity in 2014 and come fully online in 2019.

The Xingu River Under Threat

The Xingu River basin is home to 25,000 indigenous people from 40 ethnic groups; it is a living symbol of Brazil's cultural and biological diversity. The Xingu flows north 2,271 kilometers from the central savanna region of Mato Grosso to the Amazon River and, although nominally "protected" throughout most of its course by indigenous reserves and conservation units, the Xingu is severely impacted by soy monocultures and cattle ranching throughout the basin, and now by the threat of a series of large dams.

The Xingu River. Photo Credit: Maira Irigaray

Belo Monte is highly complex: the project includes two dams, one massive canal spanning 500 meters, two reservoirs (one flooding dry land), and an extensive system of dikes, some big enough to qualify themselves as large dams. To build Belo Monte more earth and rock is being excavated and dynamited than was moved to build the Panama Canal. The sheer enormity of the project means that an area of more than 1,500 square kilometers would be devastated.

Belo Monte is one of the world's most controversial dams and has faced fierce resistance from the Xingu's indigenous peoples and social movements for more than 20 years, aided by a coalition of national and international allies. Independent studies have demonstrated the dam's social, environmental, technical, and economic unviability9 while the project's legality has been roundly challenged through a series of lawsuits that have reached Brazil's Supreme Court.10 Yet despite these challenges the project has advanced significantly in the last 2 years, receiving government approval to initiate construction and obtain unprecedented public financing from Brazil's National Development Bank to cover 80% of its $16 billion costs.11

The Belo Monte Complex. Credit: International Rivers


Project Details

  • Two dams – Pimental Dam (233.1 Megawatt capacity) and Belo Monte Dam (11,000 Megawatt capacity). Both house turbines and spillways. The Pimental Dam will block the Xingu, diverting up to 80% of the river's flow to the main reservoir, while the spillway will release a minimum of 20% of its flow to the 60-mile Big Bend or Volta Grande. The Belo Monte Dam will capture the water from the main reservoir, while its spillway will release this water back into the lower Xingu River.
  • Two reservoirs – one in the Xingu riverbed, and the other on dry land,
  • 668 km2 would be flooded, including 400 km2 of forest; in all, at least 1,522 km2 will be directly affected
  • One massive canal – 500 meters wide, and a series of dykes to transfer up to 80% of the Xingu's flow into an artificial canal
  • Between 20,000–40,000 people to be displaced
  • Cost: Over US$16 billion (R$30 billion)

Current Status

The Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA granted the project an installation license in June 2011, and construction of temporary earthen cofferdams initiated in July 2011. A series of occupation activities started in 2012 led by the region's indigenous peoples and other traditional communities. These occupations have delayed the project, however the dam-building consortium claims that works are advancing according to its planned calendar12 with the definitive damming of the Xingu's final stem – and the river's diversion into an artificial canal and reservoir – an imminent reality. Legal challenges from civil society groups and Brazilian public attorneys have also delayed the project with temporary injunctions, while one lawsuit over indigenous consultation currently awaits trial in Brazil's Supreme Court.13

Human Rights and Social Impacts

Belo Monte is already causing a myriad of serious social impacts in its surroundings, including forced displacement, a spike in criminal activities, and the collapse of health, education, and sanitation infrastructure in the city of Altamira.

The drying of the Big Bend will make it impossible for the three indigenous communities that live along this 100km (60-mile) stretch of the Xingu River to reach the city of Altamira to sell their produce or buy staples. The lowering of the water table will destroy the agricultural production of the region, affecting indigenous and non-indigenous farmers, as well as water quality. The formation of small, stagnant pools of water among the rocks of the Big Bend would be an ideal environment for proliferation of malaria and other water-borne diseases.14 The project consortium has proposed a boat transposition system to carry the indigenous people past the dam infrastructure, but tribal leaders rejected the plan in October 2012. In January 2013 the consortium declared that the transposition system was complete, yet local communities have demonstrated this to be untrue.15


Officially 19,000 people would be forcibly displaced for Belo Monte, mostly from the city of Altamira, but an independent review of the project found true real number of directly affected people could be twice the official estimate.16 Contrary to what will happen in the Big Bend, Altamira's water table would become saturated, leading to flooding throughout the city during the rainy season and driving thousands of families living in the low lying areas of the city from their homes.17

Riverine families who have lived off fishing and small-scale agriculture on the Xingu for decades will be forced to relocate to Altamira and other local cities after the dam impedes fish passage, where they will compete with migrants for very few jobs, most of them low-paying. For the Xingu's poor farmers, temporary employment created by the dam is not a viable replacement for lost agricultural lands and the river's fish supply.18

Impacts on indigenous peoples

Indigenous child from a Xikrin-Kayapo village on the Bacajá River. Photo credit: Maira Irigaray Belo Monte is causing already severe impacts to the land and livelihood of 1,000 indigenous people from 25 different ethnic groups that live on the region; especially the ones located on the Xingu's Big Bend, including the Arara and Juruna.

The consortium's strategy of "buying off" communities has led to a visible increase on alcoholism, cultural disintegration, internal divisions, conflict, and many cases of depression. Because these communities received food as part of measures intended to mitigate the dam's impacts, most of them stopped cultivating their own crops, and have grown dependent on the government and the consortium for survival. Another major issue surrounds a growing incidence of human rights abuses and death threats to local leaders emanating from land invaders such as illegal loggers, migrant workers and land speculators.

Because of the changes to the Xingu's flow and the level of its waters, communities are deteriorating. Water has become undrinkable in many places, and even impossible to bathe without getting skin diseases. Fish have begun to die off in massive quantities, especially endemic ornamental species, and remaining fish stocks are becoming impossible to find due to the river's darkening waters. The cumulative and long term impacts of Belo Monte upon indigenous communities are of even greater concern as they add to the impacts of other unsustainable industries such as aluminum and metal refineries, soy plantations, logging, and mining, which have begun to expand in the area.

Impacts on traditional and urban communities

The situation of traditional communities including fisherfolk and farmers, as well as urban communities from the city of Altamira is also dramatic. Traditional populations depend exclusively on the river for their livelihoods, subsistence, navigation, and cultural reproduction.

Farmer's son reading a poem by candle light that he wrote about their struggle, one week before their eviction. Their house was located near work camps that are connected to electricity. Photo credit: Caroline Bennett

In spite of warnings by specialists about Belo Monte's consequences to navigation and fishing on the river, environmental licenses were conceded with neither mitigation nor compensation measures to offset the impacts upon affected people. The moral damages as well was economic, social, cultural, and environmental losses that have already begun to affect these communities and were not measured in advance, nor within adequate and required Brazilian standards. For this reason, the few measures that have been taken are insufficient to offset these impacts.19 This situation is aggravated by the fact that the dam-building consortium does not recognize the existence of these impacts and has declared in meetings with local communities that it will not assume responsibility for the various consequences of its own project.20 There are more than 32 lawsuits with individual and collective demands of these traditional populations in the courts, nearly all of them paralyzed, not having been ruled upon definitively in Brazil's courts.

Arara child at an occupation of one of Belo Monte's principal work camps in July 2012. Photo credit: Atossa Soltani

Because of the concession of licenses and legal decisions, these communities now find themselves in a situation of uninterrupted rights violations and the loss of their way of life provoked by the damming of the Xingu.

The situation in local cities is not different. Studies have shown that that sexual abuse of children has increased nearly threefold21 while the incidence of violent crime has doubled. Don Erwin Kreutler, Bishop of the Xingu has declared that "Currently Altamira is in chaos, residents are being evicted without answers, being kicked out of their homes where they have built their lives. They are expelled in a malicious way!"

While Brazil claims Belo Monte represents progress and dignified employment, the project's workers have also shown their discontent. After staging a series of strikes during 2012, in November workers in one of the mega-project's main construction sites set fire to work camp structures and a bus in violent protests demanding better labor conditions.22 Ironically, the majority of Belo Monte's financing comes from the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES), which itself draws funds from Brazilian worker income tax. In effect, workers are contributing their tax money to finance irresponsible projects that employ conditions akin to slave labor.

Social disintegration

The over 100,000 migrants are that expected to arrive in search of work have already caused a demographic explosion in the region, particularly in the city of Altamira, where the population is expected to double. This process has given rise to a spike in criminality – such as widespread insecurity, increased drug use, growing cases of violence including murder, and child prostitution – as well as a crisis in health, sanitation, and education services as local infrastructure has been extremely overburdened by the population boom.23 Meanwhile, the needs of those who do find jobs will add pressure to already weak infrastructure and social services in the region's largest cities.

Environmental Impacts

Belo Monte is designed to divert 80% of the Xingu's flow into a massive series of canals and dykes in order to feed the dam's powerhouse, causing a drying of the river's 100km long "Big Bend," worsening the water quantity and quality of the dozens of endemic freshwater species that live there, and impacting the health and access to water of dozens of riverine and traditional communities, including the Juruna and Arara indigenous peoples. Belo Monte also threatens to flood an area of 668 km2, including 400 km2 of the region's forests and one third of the city of Altamira, driving between 20,000-40,000 people from their homes.

A panel of 40 independent experts that analyzed the project's environmental impact assessment (EIA) found that, since the Big Bend would receive less water than at any time in its history, fish stocks would be decimated, with some species found only in the Big Bend likely to become extinct.24 In all probability, the rainforests in this region will not survive the drying of the Xingu.

Destruction of Fisheries

The river's diverse fish species, a crucial staple for communities across the Xingu basin, have precipitously declined since construction of Belo Monte's coffer dams initiated25, portending calamity for those who sustain themselves from the Xingu's waters as well as decimating fishing activities, a key livelihood in the region, as various fish species are impeded from their migratory patterns by the dam.26 A 2010 study demonstrated that Belo Monte threatens 9 fish species endemic to the Big Bend with extinction.27 The construction consortium proposes fish ladder or passage schemes to allow for natural fish migration, but recent studies have shown that such projects overwhelmingly don't work.28

Fishermen protesting after leaving a 35-day occupation in October 2012. Photo credit: Maira Irigaray

Losses of biodiversity

Belo Monte will affect biodiversity over an extensive area of the central Amazon. The rich flooded forests of the Big Bend and lower Xingu would no longer receive seasonal floodwaters. Besides affecting endemic and migratory fish species, it will seriously affect aquatic and land fauna, including endangered species such as the white-cheeked spider monkey and black-bearded saki monkey. Threatened turtle species downstream will also lose their breeding grounds.29

Environmental devastation provoked by the construction of Belo Monte. Photo credit: Maira Irigaray


In addition to the 1,500 km2 of area directly impacted by the dam, including the permanent flooding of 400 km2 of forest, the construction of Belo Monte threatens to result in explosive deforestation in the Xingu basin. A 2010 study by the Brazilian research institute IMAZON showed that deforestation indirectly related to Belo Monte could surpass 5000 km2.30

A spike in deforestation is expected to come from the surge in migration to the region provoked by the mega-project. The vast majority of the estimated 100,000 migrants expected to arrive in the region will not find work on the dam and will instead seek land and livelihoods in forested areas, leading to widespread deforestation from illegal logging and cattle ranching, the two main causes of deforestation in the Amazon.31

Methane and Global Warming

Contrary to the Brazilian government claims that dams are "clean energy," large dams in the tropics cause significant methane emissions, which are produced by the decomposing vegetation in their reservoirs. Belo Monte could become a "methane factory" spewing massive quantities of the greenhouse gas that is 25-50 times more potent than CO2.

Occupation in June 2012 where 300 indigenous people, small farmers, fisherfolk, and local residents removed a strip of earth to restore the Xingu's natural flow, 'freeing the river.' Photo credit: Atossa Soltani/ Amazon Watch/ Spectral Q

Scientific studies, such as those by leading climate change scientist Philip Fearnside of the Amazon Research Institute INPA, have shown that greenhouse gas emissions from large dam reservoirs in the Brazilian Amazon can be equal to or higher than the same amount of electricity produced by coal burning power plants.32 Brazil is currently the world's 4th largest emitter of carbon due to its emissions from deforestation in the Amazon, and while the government has adopted significant emission reduction targets, the recent rise in deforestation rates and the proposed dam expansion plans in the Amazon could stymie these efforts.33

Brazilian Legal Cases

The authorization of Belo Monte by Brazil's National Congress by means of Legislative Decree no. 788/200534 violated the right to free, prior and informed consent guaranteed to the indigenous peoples who are affected by the project.35 This serious legal violation, along with countless illegalities associated with the environmental licensing process, led Brazil's Federal Public Prosecutor's Office (MPF), a constitutional watchdog agency, to file 13 Civil Public Actions and two Actions of Administrative Fraud by the middle of 2012. Along with them, more than 32 lawsuits with individual and collective demands of traditional populations await trial in Brazil's Judiciary. Nearly all of the legal actions filed by the MPF and the Public Defender's Office of Pará state remain unresolved in the Judiciary, as a result of: 1) unjustified delays, where judges' decisions are deferred, staying initial rulings that favored preliminary injunctions; 2) conflicts of jurisdiction between the Federal Court in Altamira and the recently created 9th Environmental Court in Belém, leaving cases stalled for more than a year at the decisive moment when construction commenced; and 3) abusive use of the legal instrument known as "suspension of security".36

On August 13, 2012, the Fifth Division of the Brazilian Federal Regional Tribunal (TRF1) ordered the immediate suspension of the dam's construction, under penalty of a daily fine to the Norte Energia consortium. The tribunal argued that the authorization of the project by Brazil's Congress in 2005 was illegal, because the indigenous peoples affected by construction were not properly consulted in accordance with the Brazilian Constitution and the Convention 169 of ILO, of which Brazil is a signatory. Unfortunately, On August 27th the Chief Justice of the Brazilian Supreme Court Carlos Ayres Britto unilaterally overturned an August 14th ruling, and construction resumed immediately.37

On September 4th, the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office appealed the decision, demanding that the Chief Justice reconsider his decision or allow a vote by the full plenary of Brazil's Supreme Court. The appeal received written support by the Prosecutor General Office (PGR) reinforcing the necessity of the suspension until proper consultation takes place with affected indigenous communities, while delegitimizing the claim made by the Attorney General's Office.

Although the decision on the case is still pending, construction is moving forward, and a record-setting loan from BNDES has been approved. A new ruling could confirm the decision to suspend the project, but this scenario remains unclear because of the willingness demonstrated by the Brazilian government to blatantly obstruct justice.

In summary, in the name of a supposed "public interest," members of the judiciary are doing harm to the judicial order. With the fundamental rights of the affected populations being discarded in favor of the ongoing construction, they are faced with a state of exceptions that violates – with the characteristics of a dictatorship – the Democratic State of Laws and Brazilian society as a whole. This flagrant disregard for due process of the law is a threat to democracy as we know it, and could have far-reaching effects in Brazil and beyond.

Sheyla Juruna brings her people's case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights alongside allies from Amazon Watch, Justiça Global, AIDA, and SDDH.  Photo: Amazon Watch

International Legal Cases

On April 1, 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in favor of indigenous communities of the Xingu River basin. The Commission requested that the Brazilian government immediately suspend construction and all licensing for the Belo Monte Dam, to protect the rights to life and health of affected communities.38

The Brazilian government qualified the measures as "precipitated and unjustifiable"39 choosing to aggressively disregard the Commission's ruling. As a result of the precautionary measures, Brazil decided to withdrawn the candidacy of the former Human Rights Minister Paulo Vannuchi for a seat on the IACHR, while withholding its dues to the Organization of American States (OAS) in protest.

In June of 2011, local communities and NGOs delivered a petition to the OAS human rights body claiming that Brazil was steamrolling human rights in its rush to fast-track construction of the disastrous Belo Monte Dam.40 Subsequently, on July 29, 2011, due to heavy-handed pressure from the Brazilian government, the IACHR modified the aim of the precautionary measures, recommending instead that Brazil adopt measures to protect the life, health and safety of members of indigenous communities affected by the project, including those in voluntary isolation and dropping its earlier request that licensing be suspended. Unfortunately, the Brazilian government has ignored both sets of recommendations.

80 thousand people joined a protest at Rio+20. Photo credit: Maira Irigaray

Project Financing

The Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) is currently financing 80% of Belo Monte's costs with a loan of unprecedented proportions totaling BRL 22.5 billion (approximately US$10.8 billion). This record loan – the largest in the bank's 60-year history – was approved in November 2012, surpassing a previous record set for the bank's loans to build two mega-dams on Brazil's Madeira River. BNDES is slated to be responsible for BRL 13.5 billion of direct finance to the Norte Energia consortium, while Caixa Econômica Federal (CEF), a public bank, will pass through BRL 7 billion and the private investment bank BTG Pactual will administer another BRL 2 billion. By approving the loan, BNDES makes itself the principal financial enabler of a project notorious for violations of environmental legislation and human rights.

BNDES has offered unprecedented loan conditions, including 30-year interest periods at 4%, significantly below the cost of capital. 20% of the cost will be covered by the 18 companies that form project consortium Norte Energia, S.A., including Eletrobrás (49.98% stake). The 18-member Norte Energia consortium is currently marked by a 77.5 state controlled participation, dwarfing the role of private sector investors. Such heavy reliance on government, including the use of three Brazilian pension funds (Previ, Funcef, and Petros) and the workers' insurance fund FAT to capitalize Norte Energia, reflects investor concerns about the financial risks associated with the project. Critics charge that the project is economically unviable, due to factors such as burgeoning construction costs that increased over six fold from BRL 4.5 billion (US$ 2.2 billion) in 2005 to current estimated of BRL 31 billion (US$ 15.5 billion).

Belo Monte will continue the tradition of Brazil's boondoggle energy projects like the Balbina dam in the Amazon.

Energy Inefficiency and Future Upstream Dams

Belo Monte will be one of the most energy inefficient dams in the history of Brazil. It will produce only 10% of its 11,233 megawatt (MW) installed energy generating capacity during the 3-5 month-long dry season, an average of only 4,462 MW throughout the year, or 39% of its nominal capacity.

To guarantee a year-round flow of water, the government would need to construct a series of large dams on the Xingu and its tributaries that will gravely impact forests and forest peoples. Earlier plans for Belo Monte called for four additional upstream dams: Altamira, Iriri, Pombal, and São Felix. Because of the dramatic variations in the Xingu River's flow between the rainy season and dry season Belo Monte is only economically if additional dams are built upstream.

Government planners have denied there will be additional hydroelectric dams built on they Xingu, however this does not stop them from building major dams to store water upstream in order to guarantee Belo Monte's powerhouse a steady flow. Such dams would flood thousands of hectares of rainforest on Kayapo, Araweté, Assuriní and Arara indigenous territories, portending social, cultural, and environmental disaster.

Where the Energy Goes

The government claims that Belo Monte's cheap energy will power the houses of Brazilian families. In reality, only 70% of Belo Monte's energy will be sold for public consumption. Meanwhile, the remaining 30% has been purchased by state electric utility Eletrobras to resell to inefficient and energy-intensive industrial mining and other operations.

The government has planned a USD $40 billion investment in mining expansion for the Amazon region through the year 2014. The heavily subsidized electricity from Belo Monte and other hydroelectric dams planned for the region would power the expansion of export-oriented mining at the Vale corporation's Carajás iron mine and Salobo copper mine, Alcoa's Juriti bauxite mine, and Anglo American's Jacaré nickel mine, among the emerging threat of the Belo Sun Volta Grande gold mine.

Meanwhile, Brazilian citizens would continue to pay among the highest energy tariffs in the developing world in exchange for electricity from one the most inefficient dam in the country's history.

Brazil has abundant potential to be a clean alternative energy leader and set aside its dirty energy plans for the Amazon Basin.

Energy Alternatives

Brazil has abundant potential to be a clean alternative energy leader and set aside its dirty energy plans for the Amazon Basin. The acute controversy caused by the Brazilian government's steamrolling of Belo Monte's construction has led to serious debate about Brazil's energy matrix.

New reports demonstrate the mounting evidence that Brazil does not need the ecologically and financially costly Belo Monte Dam, nor the dozens of large dams slated for the Brazilian Amazon over the next 20 years.41 Brazil could meet its growing needs for electricity through less harmful energy alternatives and through the implementation of robust energy efficiency programs.

Solar and wind energy production currently face obstacles of access and await grid-connectivity laws, currently pending adoption by the Brazilian congress. A shift from centralized to distributed renewable power generation and efforts to promote new investments in solar and wind energy, increase the efficiency of Brazil's network of existing power plants, reduce transmission losses, implement smart grid technology, and investments in demand side energy efficiency have the potential for providing the clean reliable energy that Brazil needs to fuel its economic development without further harming the Amazon's rivers and rainforests.


  1. See, for example: The Brazilian Electrical Sector and Sustainability in the 21st century: Opportunities and Challenges (2012) [O Setor Elétrico Brasileiro e a Sustentabilidade no Século 21: Oportunidades e Desafios (2012)] (Portuguese with English executive summary) Available at
  9. Belo Monte Specialist Panel from 2009 with English executive summary: and full report in Portuguese:
  14. Belo Monte Specialist Panel from 2009 with English executive summary: and full report in Portuguese:
  15. Avaliable in Portuguese at
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  19. The Basic Environmental Plan (PBA) of the consortium reports that the mitigation measures will be implemented only after full installation of the project in 2020.
  20. In July and August 2011 the company technicians reported that starting in January 2012 fishermen would be forbidden to travel and fish on the Xingu River; which will dry nearby streams; where roads will not be available for transit; where local residents (including fishermen) will need to acquire cars for themselves (enabling them to transport themselves) even if they do not live in Altamira. In a meeting in September 2011, the President of one of the Fishermen Associations (ACEPOAT) questioned the consortium about the rights of fishermen in the context of the construction of Belo Monte. The company informed them that no rights would be afforded to fishermen, because after construction (2020) fishing would be permitted again, the company would build fish tanks to promote the livelihoods of fishermen, showing a budget for this project of R $ 580,000,000 (US$ 285,500,000).
  22. Avaliable at
  24. Belo Monte Specialist Panel from 2009 with English executive summary: and full report in Portuguese:
  26. Belo Monte Specialist Panel from 2009 with English executive summary: and full report in Portuguese:
  29. Belo Monte Specialist Panel from 2009 with English executive summary:
  31. Belo Monte Specialist Panel from 2009 with English executive summary: and full report in Portuguese:
  34. Available at
  35. Article 231 of the Federal Constitution and the international human rights norms of which Brazil is a party, Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, the Americana Convention on Human Rights, the San Salvador protocol and the jurisprudence of the Inter-American System of Human Rights
  36. "Suspension of security" is an authoritarian and anti-democratic legal instrument frequently employed by judiciary powers in the rulings of high courts to impose political decisions on legal judgments, paralyzing their implementation while guaranteeing that the interests of the government and the private sector are met. Its norms were originally implemented in an extra-constitutional manner by the legislature to meet the needs of the military regime, and have remained in Brazil’s legal code since the period of the dictatorship. This device defers the possibility of definitive judicial rulings on the legality and legitimacy of the legislative and administrative measures taken during the environmental licensing of Belo Monte.
  37. Available at
  38. More information available at
  39. Available in Portuguese at
  40. Available at
  41. See, for example: The Brazilian Electrical Sector and Sustainability in the 21st century: Opportunities and Challenges (2012) [O Setor Elétrico Brasileiro e a Sustentabilidade no Século 21: Oportunidades e Desafios (2012)] (Portuguese with English executive summary) Available at:


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