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Iron ore mining in Gandarela Mountain Range, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Vale plans to extract iron ore in an area of great ecological importance. The boundaries of the Gandarela National Park, created in 2014, have been defined so that the mine can be built.


In the Gandarela Mountain Range, located in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais), Vale aims to produce 24 million tons of iron ore per year, for 17 years. Vale’s project is called Apolo Mine. Gandarela presents the largest and best preserved metallophile savannah (canga ecosystem) of the Iron Quadrangle (the mining region of Minas Gerais). This type of savannah has few remnants in Brazil, as it is generally destroyed by mining. It is an important recharge area for aquifers and, therefore, coincides with great underground water potential, which is important for the formation of river springs and also directed used for public water supply. For this reason, environmentalists even created the term Aquifer Quadrangle to oppose the official name Iron Quadrangle and thus the idea of a regional vocation focused on mining. It is estimated that 80% of the 5 billion m3 reserve of this Aquifer are located under the metallophile savannahs and that 40% of the remaining savannahs in the region are in Gandarela Mountain Range. Therefore, Apollo Mine could damage not only unique attributes of savannah ecosystems, such as the endemic biodiversity and dozens of caves, as well as the availability of water for the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte [1, 2, 4].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Iron ore mining in Gandarela Mountain Range, Minas Gerais, Brazil
State or province:Minas Gerais State
Location of conflict:Caeté, Santa Bárbara, Raposos and Rio Acima
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Apolo Mine is prospecting to produce 24 million tonnes of iron ore per year. The project includes: plant, waste dumps (315 hectares), rail spur with 22 kilometers long and the construction of a tailings dam (344 hectares).

Project area:1728
Level of Investment for the conflictive project2,100,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:5,000,000
Start of the conflict:2009
Company names or state enterprises:Vale (Vale) from Brazil - formerly named Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (Brazil)
Relevant government actors:MMA , ICMBio , SEMAD , SUPRAM-CM , MPE , MPF
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Movement for the Preservation of Gandarela Mountain Range, MovSAM - Movement of Mountain Ranges and Waters of Minas, Manuelzão Project, MACACA (cultural, artistic and environmental Movement of Caeté)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Mine tailing spills, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsDestruction of caves
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsThreat to water supply of city of Belo Horizonte
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Creation of a National Park
Community-based tourism
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The Serra do Gandarela National Park was created, but the established contours were more in the interest of mining than of the movements that stood for its creation. These argue that the contours do not guarantee the preservation of the biodiversity, the springs and the capacity of recharge of aquifers.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[7] Drecreto - Cria o Parque Nacional da Serra do Gandarela, 13 de outubro de 2014
[click to view]

Lei No 9,985, 18 de julho de 2000. Institui o Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conservação da Natureza e dá outras providências.
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] ICMBIO. Proposta de Criação do Parque Nacional da Serra do Gandarela. Belo Horizonte: IMCBio, 2010.
[click to view]

[2] CARMO, F.F. Importância ambiental e estado de conservação dos ecossistemas de cangas no Quadrilátero Ferrífero e proposta de áreas-alvo para a investigação e proteção da biodiversidade em Minas Gerais. Dissertação (Mestrado em Ecologia, Conservação e Manejo da Vida Silvestre) – Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, 2010.
[click to view]

[3] COELHO-DE-SOUZA, C.H. O “Espaço da Resistência” na Serra do Gandarela: Instrumentos, Contraposições e a Necessária Utopia. 2015. 374 f. Tese (Doutorado em Arquitetura post mortem) – Escola de Arquitetura, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, 2015.
[click to view]

[4] LAMOUNIER, W.L.; CARVALHO, V.L.M.; SALGADO, A.A.R. Serra do Gandarela: possibilidades de ampliação das unidades de conservação no Quadrilátero Ferrífero – MG. Revista do Departamento de Geografia – USP, v.22, p. 171-192, 2011.
[click to view]

Gesta-UFMG. Environmental Conflicts Map of Minas Gerais/Brazil.
[click to view]

Ejolt. The resistance against the giant Vale mining company is growing worldwide. Carolina H. Coelho-de-Souza. 15 abr 2013.
[click to view]

[5] MADEIRA, J. Criação do Parna Gandarela perdeu a chance de ser modelo. ((o)) eco. Associação O Eco.16 out. 2014.
[click to view]

[6] MPSG. Movimento pela Preservação da Serra do Gandarela. Parque Nacional criado não protege a Serra e as águas do Gandarela. Manifesto. 16 out. 2014.
[click to view]
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[3] COELHO-DE-SOUZA, C.H. O “Espaço da Resistência” na Serra do Gandarela: Instrumentos, Contraposições e a Necessária Utopia. 2015. 374 f. Tese (Doutorado em Arquitetura post mortem) – Escola de Arquitetura, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, 2015.
[click to view]

Images from Gandarela
[click to view]

Video: Aguas do
[click to view]

Save Gandarela on Vimeo
[click to view]

The petition in English
[click to view]

The resistance moviment site
[click to view]

video: The right to say NO
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Andréa Zhouri /Carolina Hermann C de Souza (updated by Beatriz Saes)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:308
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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