* Consortium stops work after workers set fire to vehicles
* Belo Monte to be world's third largest hydro-power dam
* Dam on Xingu river set to start operations as early as
BRASILIA, Nov 13 Work on the world's third
largest hydroelectric dam was halted this week deep in the
Amazon jungle after workers set fire to vehicles and smashed
computers during labor talks, the consortium building the Belo
Monte dam said.
The controversial $13 billion project is opposed by
environmentalists and Amazon natives who will be displaced by
the 11,200 megawatt dam. Now it has been hit by a labor dispute.
CCBM, as the consortium is known, decided to halt work by
15,000 workers on Monday after workers vandalized offices and
canteens, set fire to mattresses, burnt a bus to the ground and
blocked the Trans-Amazon highway, the consortium said in a
The violence began after hooded workers disrupted contract
negotiations between the company and the main labor union on
Saturday night, and continued into early Monday.
"We had to stop work for the security of the workers," said
CCBM spokesman Fernando Santana by telephone from Altamira,
where the dam is build built on the Xingu river.
The three construction sites in Altamira were calm on
Tuesday, but work would not resume until the consortium is sure
there is no further violence, Santana said.
In October, one of the sites was paralyzed for 10 days by
Amazon natives and local fishermen demanding more compensation
for communities affected by the dam project.
Belo Monte will be the world's third biggest hydroelectric
dam after China's Three Gorges and Itaipu, on the border of
Brazil and Paraguay. At one of the sites halted on Monday,
workers are excavating a 20-km (12.4-mile) canal that will
involve removing more earth and stone than was removed to build
the Panama canal.
The dam has been criticized by conservationists because it
will flood a large swathe of Amazon rainforest.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff approved the dam
project, arguing that the world's sixth largest economy needs
more hydroelectric generating capacity to cover rising energy
consumption by an expanding middle class consumer society.
The Norte Energia consortium that owns the concession for
the dam, which is set to start producing electricity in 2015,
includes utilities Eletrobras, Cemig and
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Jackie Frank)