Iron ore mining in Curral Novo, Piauí, Brazil

Iron mining project and a new railway threaten rural communities in Piauí, in the semi-arid region of Brazil. Opposition strongly supported by Catholic church.


The Brazilian state of Piauí is not traditionally a mining state. However, the existence of reserves of iron ore, diamonds, phosphorus, nickel, marble, limestone and clay and the construction of Transnordestina Railway that will connect Piauí to two important ports (Suape, Pernambuco and Pecém, Ceará) has attracted mining companies in the region. The mining company Brasil Exploração Mineral S.A. (BEMISA), since 2008, began the exploration research in the municipalities of Curral Novo do Piauí, Paulistana and Simões to enable the extraction and exportation of iron ore. BEMISA was founded in the previous year (2007) and, when commodities prices were high, promptly developed 10 mining projects – four of them to extract iron ore – in seven Brazilian states. The BEMISA mining project could affect up to 1000 people mainly in rural communities in Curral Novo do Piauí, among these Baixo dos Belos, Manga Velha, Lagoa do Ovo, Sítio do Juá, Caititu and Garapa. The first mobilizations against the project arose when the process of environmental licensing was already advanced.

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Basic Data
NameIron ore mining in Curral Novo, Piauí, Brazil
SitePaulistana, Curral Novo and Simões
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral ore exploration
Mineral processing
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesIron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsMeasured, indicated and Inferred iron ore resources of about 1,003 Mt at low grade (27.05% Fe).

The estimated extraction per year is of 15 Mt (with iron grade above 70% after beneficiation).

The BEMSA iron ore project is linked to another local project, the Transnordestina Railway.
Project Area (in hectares)10,000
Level of Investment (in USD)1,000,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population1,000
Start Date15/05/2013
Company Names or State EnterprisesBrasil Exploração Mineral S.A. (BEMISA) from Brazil - BEMISA started and developed the Planato Piauí Project
Relevant government actorsPiauí Government

VALEC Engenharia, Construções e Ferrovias S.A. (mains shareholdes of Transnordestina Railroad)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersComissão Pastoras da Terra (CPT):

Comunidades Eclesiais de Base (ECB):

Collective Antônia Flo.

Bishop of the Diocese of Picos
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
Religious groups
Quilombola communities
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseStrengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Although there are no official declarations of BEMISA on the subject, more than the conflict with the communities, the delay and the absence of forecasts for the conclusion of Transnordestina Railroad is the most evident reason for the paralysis of the mining project.
Sources and Materials

Sousa, A.B. Conflito, luta e resistência camponesa no semiárido piauiense frente aos projetos mineração e transnordestina. Instituto de políticas públicas e relações internacionais - UNESP (Master dissertation). São Paulo, 2016.
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Mission organized by Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT)-Piauí in region affected by iron ore mining and Transnordestina Railway projects (August 2015)
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Map of conflicts involving environmental injustice and health in Brazil (Fiocruz, Brazil)
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II Mission to defend Communities affected by Mining organized by Comissão Pastoral da Terra -CPT-Piauí (May 8, 2016)
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Training course for Popular Jurists in Mining in Curral Novo (PI) organized by Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) - Piauí (August 2017)
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Other Documents

Water reservoir in the semi-arid region of Piauí that will be affected by iron mining project Water reservoir used for raising small animals, mainly goats. Source: Diocese de Picos. Available at:
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Meta Information
ContributorBeatriz Macchione Saes, Usp, [email protected]
Last update10/07/2018