Since 2003, the residents of the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte are fighting against the impacts of iron mining in the vicinity of the Parque Estadual Serra do Rola Moca. Mineral extraction threatens the quality of drinking water supply.
Capao Xavier mine, operated by Mineracoes Brasileiras Reunidas (MBR), a company controlled by Vale SA, is located at the Northwest of the provinces mineral of Quadrilatero Ferrifero (Iron Quadrangle), State of Minas Gerais in the Southeast region of Brazil, bounded by watershed area of steams Seco and Fechos. Capao Xavier mine is situated on four Springs: Ribeirões de Fechos, Mutuca, Catarina e Barreiro, in the basin of Alto Rio das Velhas, responsible for the water supply of 320,000 people- 9% of the population of Belo Horizonte and 7% in the metropolitan region.
It is also located within the boundaries of the area of environmental preservation of Mutuca and is bordered by the Parque Estadual Serra do Rola Moca. The mine presents open air mining for iron ore exploitation. All the ore produced at the mine is processed at the mine ore treatment of Mutuca mine, being transported by dump trucks of 38 t. All mine drainage is directed into the pit.
In 2003, the MBR (Vale) obtained by the Conselho de Politica Ambiental de Minas Gerais (COPAM), licence to mine Capon Xavier, and requested the installation license, which was granted in the same year. In 2004, the operating license was requested, granted a few months later. Some conditions were laid down for the granting of licences, such as: creation of an artificial lake at the site of cava; donation from rural areas to the Parque Estadual Serra do Rola Moca; filling the pit of the Mutuca mine with tailings in order to re-establish the topography of the site.
The environmental impact report submitted by mining company to licensing show that part of the mine Capon Xavier is under the stream basin area Mutuca, considered of special interest for the protection of springs and declared area of permanent preservation by State Decree 21,372 from 1981. The report also shows that mining at that site will cause the stream waters of Fechos have their natural flow reduced by 40%, and the streams of Catherine and Barreiro are around 20% reduction, and irreversible impacts in your area. Another study, prepared by the engineers Helio Lazarim and Celso Loureiro, indicates that, in the region of topographic plateau of Canada Garden District, a neighborhood close to the mine, the relegation of water sheet to the level predicted would result in the disabling of most tanks and underground water tube wells currently in operation in the neighborhood. With the lowering of the level of the water table, the water that supplies the city of Nova Lima, and part of Belo Horizonte, will lose in quality. The release of dust, by blasting of rocks, moving trucks and machines, and gaseous pollutants such as CO and HC, from the combustion of oils, cause great impact by water pollution. In addition, losses in relation to the ground and the relief, caused by excavations and sterile and tailings deposition; opening of access roads, leading to a loss in the quality of life of the population of the surrounding areas, primarily due to noise pollution from noise detonations during dismantle of the ore.
In 2003 was presented by Ministerio Publico do Estado de Minas Gerais a first representation questioning the prior license issued by COPAM. In the same year, in response to a popular action proposed by two State representatives, an injunction ordered the suspension of environmental permits issued. In 2004, a public civil action addressed to the State of Minas Gerais was questioning the licensing due to uncertainties about the environmental impacts that the operation could cause to water resources (in particular, with respect to the public water supply); mainly due to the reduction in the level of the water table. The mine began operating in the second half of 2004, after the Court has suspended the injunction that prevented its operation. Since then, the Movimento Capão Xavier Vivo has been preparing its own reports to defense of springs and water supply rights of citizens of the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte, looking to challenge the reports forwarded by the MBR to environmental agencies and supporting the lawsuits filed against mining company.