Industrial Complex Porto Açu, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Industrial Complex Porto Açu, to the north of Rio de Janeiro State, directly impacts 5.000 people and imposes degradation in an area of environmental protection to the benefit of iron ore exports.

Industrial Complex Porto Açu is localized in the North of Rio de Janeiro State. Also knowed as the 'Super Port', it has capacity for the largest ships in the world and boasts an unual nickname: Highway to China, as most of the products, mainly raw materials, will be exported to the Asian country. The project was started by the company Logistic LLX, part of EBX Group, owned by the entrepreneur Eike Batista. Since 2013, the majority of the Port is controled by  Prumo Logística S.A., a subsidiary from the the group Global Energy Partners - EIG. Under construction since October 2007 and covering an area of 90 km², the project comprises an offshore terminal (Terminal 1, or T1) and an onshore terminal (Terminal 2, or T2). The Açu Port is connected with an iron ore pipeline of 525 km of extension, that starts in the city of Conceiçao do Mato Dentro, in Minas Gerais, where there is a mine project owned by Anglo American company. The entire system is called Minas-Rio.  The area in Rio where the Açu Industrial Complex is localized, São João da Barra, has 32 thousand inhabitants. The Port is concentrated in the 5th District (Pipeiras), where more than 70% of the people used to develop activities based on family farming and artisanal fishery. To allow the construction of the Açu Port, the State of Rio de Janeiro, in partnership with the municipality of  São João da Barra, signed two decree-laws. One of them was to expropriate the area. The second one was to turn it into an area of public interest. Suddenly, the 5th district went from a rural area responsible for food production for various cities, including the capital of Rio de Janeiro, to an industrial district. Farmers and fishermen engaged in food production of important items (pineapple, banana, sweet potato, manioc, sugar cane, tomato, orange, okra, gherkin, fish, to mention some) meeting the demands of nearby cities, besides other products for the rural families' subsistence, hence being indispensable for food sovereignty. More than 500 farmers were evicted and there are lots of cases of strong pressure from the company. Some of this people were relocated in an area called "Vila da Terra", where the conditions are not the same for fishermen and the area for the farmers is very small. The estimate is that 26.5 million tons of concentrated iron ore will go through de Port per year  to supply the foreign market.  However, there are Anglo American company's estimates that points an "expansion potencial" of 80 million tons per year. Since 2008, the local community denounces huge social and environmental impacts the project would cause and the lack of public consultation. Since then, family farmers, fisherman and other inhabitants who live in the area for generations have been doing different kinds of protests, showing that at least 33 rural communities and small urban centres between São João da Barra and Campos dos Goytacazes would be impacted, which means about 5 thousand people.  In 2009, some of them funded the Association of Rural Producers and Real Estate (Associaçao dos Produtores Rurais e Imóveis - Asprim), a social organization that since 2009 has defended the interests of farmers affected by the Port of Açu. They have tried different ways to claim for their rights, blocking the works of the Industrial Complex, the main road that gives access to the Port, and trying many ways to force the executive branch of State and the Judiciary to act.  Supporting and working together with the community from 5th District, there are researchers from different  public universities in Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais and NGOs. Together, they have published a Dossier about the case and started judiciary processes to stop forced evictions, inapropriate relations between the State and the private actors involved and irregularities in the fragmented environmental licensing process. Some alternative media were also part of the network, with the aim of confronting dominant narratives about the project. Some researches and testimonials of the farmers and fishermen already evidence salinization of water and degradation of the sandbank area, considered special environment protection bioma. Access to the ocean and lagoons are also limited by the Industrial Complex Porto Açu, as it covers 60% of its accesses and the costal area. There is no transparency about how many families were evicted so far, but the company recognizes that about 30% are still waiting for compensation, after being displaced.
Basic Data
NameIndustrial Complex Porto Açu, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
ProvinceSão João da Barra
SiteRio de Janeiro
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Ports and airport projects
Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral processing
Specific CommoditiesIron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Estimate of 26.5 million tons of concentrated iron ore will go through de Port per year to supply the foreign market in the next years
See more...
Project Area (in hectares)9000
Level of Investment (in USD)2,800,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population5000 (direct)
Start Date2008
Company Names or State EnterprisesGlobal Energy Partners (EIG) ((EIG) ) from United States of America
EBX Group (EBX) from Brazil
PRUMO Global Logistics from Brazil - owner
Anglo American from United Kingdom - Majority owner of the pipeline project and the mine in Minas Gerais directly connected to the Port and minority shareholder at Prumo Logistica
Relevant government actorsFederal government

State of Rio de Janeiro

Municipality of São João da Barra


Companhia de Desenvolvimento Industrial (Codin)
International and Financial InstitutionsBNDES from Brazil
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAssociação dos Proprietários de Imóveis e Moradores de Pipeiras, Barcelos, Cajueiro e Campo da Praia (ASPRIM)

Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Econômicas (IBASE)

Comissão Pastoral da Terra – CPT

Associação dos Geógrafos Brasileiros (AGB)

Grupo de Estudos em Temáticas Ambientais (GESTA/UFMG)

Instituto Federal Fluminense – IFF-RJ

Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST

Rede Brasileira de Justiça Ambiental - RBJA

Núcleo de Estudos Rurais e Urbanos – NERU/UFF
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Some compensation has been asked for but there are also cases of refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Desertification/Drought, Noise pollution
Potential: Air pollution, Soil contamination, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Accidents, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other Health impacts, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesObligation of public consultations.

Publication of Dossiers as a result of partnership between local community, academic researchers and NGOs
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.In the matter of the project itself, Porto Açu case is not a succcess. Although there were so many effort by the community, researchers and activists, it continues to operate without big modifications, activists report several threats and thousands of people were displaced. There is no transparency by the governments so far. However, taking into account the mobilization, creation of an association to fight for the rights of farmers and fishermen and other kinds of community-based organization and knowledge development, Porto Açu is a very important case of resistance.
Sources and Materials

Federal Prosecutors Office
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Human Rights Violations at Porto Açu
Homa - Centro de Direitos Humanos e Empresas
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Os deserdados do desenvolvimento: O caso da implantação do Complexo Portuário e Industrial do Açu e seus impactos socio-territoriais
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Data about the city Sao Joao da Barra
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Dossier Minas-Rio Project and its social-environmental impacts: a look from the perspective of affected people
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Injustiça Ambiental, Mineração e Siderurgia
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Açu Port supports state government’s reading incentive program and workshop in São João da Barra
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News report at Canal Ibase
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News report at The Guardian newspaper
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News report on G1 focus on sandbank degradation in São João da Barra
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Megaproject impact farmers
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Fiocruz Environmental Conflicts map - the case of Porto Açu
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Case Porto Açu at OCMAL Atlas
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News report at O Globo newspaper - Inhabitant of São João da Barra refuses compensation (Noêmia Magalhaes: Na negociação, existem duas coisas distintas: preço e valor. Quem não sabe a diferença não entende o amor. Quanto vale seu projeto de vida? Isso se negocia?)
[click to view]

Media Links

Projeto Minas-Rio, uma história de violações: Porto Açu e mineroduto atingem 32 cidades
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Ignorados - made by researchers in Campos dos Goytacazes
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Rio nega licença para térmica a carvão no Porto do Açu. DENISE LUNA.15/10/2013 . Folha de Sao Paulo.
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Noêmia Magalhães fala da luta contra as desapropriações no Porto do Açu
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Other Documents

Scenario after eviction in São João da Barra
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Resistance Exchange in São João da Barra Communities from São João da Barra and Conceição do Mato Dentro meet for an exchange of resistance, in 2014. Picture: Roberto Moraes
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Resistance Exchange in São João da Barra In 2013, communities impacted by the Porto Açu works meet with communities affected by the mine in Conceição do Mato Dentro for an exchange of resistance against Minas-Rio entire system. The meeting was supported by academic researchers groups and NGOs. Foto by Camila Nobrega
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Porto Açu project Aerial view of Porto Açu, in São João da Barra. Picture: Roberto Moraes
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Landscape of Porto Açu Complex The Port responds to about 60% of access to the coastal area. Aerial fotos taken by the researcher Roberto Moraes
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Other CommentsA controversial 2100 MW coal fired power station was foreseen by Eike Batista but it was discarded in favour of one of natural gas. (Folha de Sao Paulo, 15 Oct. 2013).
Meta Information
ContributorCamila Nobrega, Free University of Berlin.
Last update06/12/2016