Iron ore mining project Pedra de Ferro in Caetité, BA, Brazil

BAMIN, controlled by ERG, gets into conflicts over water. The first major iron ore project in Bahia, a new mining frontier in Brazil, threatens the way of life of small farmers and traditional communities.


Description

Since 2006, the company Bahia Mineração (BAMIN) is developing a large iron ore mining project in Caetité in the south of Bahia, one of the new mining frontiers in Brazil. BAMIN was formed by the Indian company Zamin Ferrous specially for exploiting iron ore in Bahia. Between 2008 and 2010, all its shares were acquired by the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) from Kazakhstan, which was later transformed in the Eurasian Resources Group (ERG), holding company based in Luxembourg. The project, named Pedra de Ferro (iron stone), was designed to have its iron ore transported by the Brazilian West-East Integration Railroad (FIOL), which is being built by the Federal Government, and by the South Port (Ilhéus, Bahia), which is being built by the Bahia Government in partnership with BAMIN itself – both large enterprises responsible for various conflicts in southern Bahia.

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Basic Data
NameIron ore mining project Pedra de Ferro in Caetité, BA, Brazil
CountryBrazil
ProvinceBahia
SiteCaetité and Pindaí
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific CommoditiesIron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsPedra de Ferro Project was designed to produce 20 million tons of iron ore per year. The Pedra de Ferro project installation really encompasses a 700km area from the Sao Francisco river course to the port in Ilheus, Bahia. The central conflict is connected to potential water impacts due to the mineral extraction along with the project to build a tailings dam inside a permanent conservation area. The forecast is that during the operation stage the project will employ 1800 people directly, and up to 4500 people in the implementation stage.

Bahia Mineracão (BAMIN) is leading Pedra de Ferro project, which is connected to two other projects: a port construction in Ilheus (Bahia) sponsored by Bahia Government and a railway construction connecting Tocantins to Bahia state managed by VALEC. BAMIN's capital is now controlled by the Eurasian Resource Group (ERG). ERG has incorporated the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC)'s assets in 2013 after a corporate scandal involving corruption in their the Middle East and African operations. Previously, ENRC was BAMIN main shareholder.

Pedra de Ferro project has been very controversial since 2009 when the Agência Nacional de Águas (Brazilian water agency) granted BAMIN the permit to collect water from the Sao Francisco river course. This process included the resettlement of 52 local people.

The mine project has started its licence processes in 2010, and in 2014 granted the licence to operate (the licence has 3 years duration). However, the project is been on hold due to its feasibility dependence on the global mineral market price and also in the constructing of the logistic complex attached to it.

Since 2013, Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) in Bahia has been visiting the nearby communities and reporting an increase in conflicts over the years.

In 2017 conflicts around the project were intensified due to the tailing dams construction in the region. Since Fundão dam failure in Mariana, Minas Gerais, communities nearby potential and current tailings dams are worried about the risks and impacts associated with this way to store mineral extraction byproducts. Communities in Caetité and Guanambi have been holding meetings to oppose the dam construction and trying to mobilize unions and local authorities to support their case.

On 3 October 2017, the Bahia's prosecutor office has officially recommended BAMIN not to build the tailings dam in Pedra de Ferro permanent conservation area. The prosecutor office has recommended also that BAMIN should present alternative location to the tailings dam project. BAMIN will have to improve the project's overall social and environmental impacts' reach, too, since the assessment provided by the company was not considered consistent by the prosecutor in charge at that moment.

Later in November 2017, MAM activists invaded the local environmental agency headquarters denouncing BAMIN impacts on communities regarding water and fruits and vegetable issues.
Project Area (in hectares)3,926
Level of Investment (in USD)3,000,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population10,000
Start Date28/07/2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesEurasian Resources Group (ERG) from Kazakhstan
Bahia Mineração (BAMIN) from Brazil - BAMIN started and developed the Pedra de Ferro Project
Zamin Ferrous from India
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Transport

Federal Government

VALEC/Ministry of Transports

Bahia State Goverment

Terceira Câmara Cível do TJ/BA

Instituto do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Hídricos (INEMA).

Prosecutor Office in Bahia (Ministerio Publico da Bahia)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersMAM – Movimento pela Soberania Popular na Mineração (http://mamnacional.org.br/)

CPT - Comissão Pastoral da Terra (https://www.cptnacional.org.br/)

Associação de Advogados de Trabalhadores Rurais
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Trade unions
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Air pollution, Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Outcome
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesThe main proposals discussed at the Popular Assembly of Mining for water and life protection (June 3, 2017) are: immediate suspension of the tailings dam license; recognition of public lands; the fulfillment of the conditions established in the licensing process for the relocated families, respect for the environment, land and water. The Assembly was organized by Movimento pela Soberania Popular na Mineração ( MAM), Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) and the Rural Workers' Unions of Pindaí.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.In response to the mobilizations of the communities around the project, the Bahia Public Prosecutor's Office, in October 2017, recommended that the Bamin tailings dam should not be implanted in the Permanent Preservation Area (APP) Pedra de Ferro River, located in Caetité and Pindaí (BA). However, the completion of the project seems inevitable and the final outcome of the conflict, even in relation to tailings dam, is still uncertain. The conflict is characterized by several judicial disputes, especially land disputes with traditional communities and local farmers. While BAMIN is advancing on getting licences, there is a lot of resistance over these decisions, some with the support of the local public prosecutor office.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

The State Prosecutor Office recommended BAMIN not to construct a tailings dam in Pedra de Ferro permanent conservation area
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The Justice Department in Bahia suspends judicial injunction against Joao Barroca community
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References

Academic paper on land dispute in the region. PARECER DA NASCENTE DO RIACHO PEDRA DE FERRO NOS MUNICÍPIOS DE CAETITÉ E PINDAÍ-BAHI. Simposio Baiano de Geografia Agraria, 3-5 Julho 2017
[click to view]

“A CHEGADA DO ESTRANHO”: MINERAÇÃO E CONFLITOS POR ÁGUA NAS COMUNIDADES CAMPONESAS DE CAETITÉ E

PINDAÍ- BAHIA, BRASIL. Fernanda Oliveira Rodrigues / f.oliveira2011@yahoo.com.br/ Wesley Borges Costa/ wes_borges@hotmail.com. Revista Pegada,17 (1) Julho 2016.

Links

Popular victory: prosecutor recommends that Bamin not implant tailings dam in Permanent Preservation Area (MAM, 2017a)
[click to view]

Map of Environmental Justice and Health in Brazil (Fiocruz/Brazil). Description of the conflict in Caetité related to Bamin's iron ore Project.
[click to view]

Letter - Popular Assembly of Mining, organized in Pindaí (Bahia), June 3, 2017
[click to view]

Letter - Comissão Pastoral da Terra describing hearings in southwestern Bahia (July 2009)
[click to view]

Letter - Territorial and Environment Committe, December 20, 2009. Letter rejecting the iron ore project in Caetité.
[click to view]

Letter - Atingidos pela Bamin-Fiol-Porto Sul (Ilhéus, Bahia, October 28, 2011)
[click to view]

Occupation at the headquarters of Inema is a result of the political organization of communities (MAM, 2017b)
[click to view]

CPT Bahia helps communities impacted by mining project to create georeferenced maps with the delimitation of areas of common use (Comissão Pastoral da Terra, 2014)
[click to view]

Database of the Mineral Technology Center (Ministry of Science Technology and Education, Brazil) that presents case studies on socio-environmental effects of mining in Brazil.
[click to view]

Media Links

Video about communities that depend on rivers whose springs may be compromised by the Bamin Project.
[click to view]

Pedra de ferro project -BAMIN
[click to view]

BAMIN: tire as mãos da nossa água!
[click to view]

A brief timeline on Pedra de Ferro project
[click to view]

Other Documents

Popular Assembly of Mining in Pindaí (Bahia) Popular Assembly of Mining in Pindaí (Bahia) on June 3, 2017.
[click to view]

Occupation of INEMA (Institute of Environment and Water Resources of Bahia) Occupation of INEMA (Institute of Environmental and Water Resources of Bahia) by farmers and social movements in Alto Sertão da Bahia (Bahia), on November 27, 2017.
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorBeatriz Macchione Saes, Usp, beatrizmsaes@gmail.com / M. Galvao Lyra
Last update27/04/2018
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