The Brazilian iron ore produce Vale has agreed to pay $1.5 billion for a nine per cent stake in the contentious Belo Monte hydropower project in the Amazon basin.

Vale is purchasing the stake from Bertin Group, a Brazilian agricultural concern. The move is seen as a sign that the Brazilian government – which owns a controlling stake in Vale – wants to drive the hydropower project forward in spite of the numerous lawsuits and demonstrations against the project.

Earlier this year an international consortium lead by Alstom won a €500 million order from Norte Energia of Brazil for the supply of key equipment for Belo Monte, which will be the third largest hydropower project in the world when completed in 2019.

The 11 230 MW hydropower plant is a key part of the Brazilian government’s development strategy. Vale, which has also invested in other dam projects in Brazil, says that it will benefit from investing in the project as it is a major user of electricity.

Alstom, Andritz and Voith will together supply 14 Francis turbine generator sets and six bulb units for the $10 billion power plant on the Xingu River in Brazil’s Para state.