Around 1920, it was discovered that the Pine River Valley, near the municipality of Anitapolis, had one of the largest phosphate reserves of Brazil. Studies carried out since 1960, described the characteristics of mineral existing in the region. In 1987, the Adubos Trevo company, then part of Bunge group, began buying land in the region aimed at exploiting existing ore. About 1.800 hectares were acquired since then. In 2001, the Industria de Fosfatados Catarinense (IFC), a joint venture of Bunge and Yara Brasil Fertilizantes, asked for environmental licenses for exploitation of a deposit of 300 hectares of phosphate in that area for a period of 30 years.
Environmental impact studies of the project have been published by the consultancy Caruso Jr and Prominer.
The project presented by IFC provided the extraction of more than 1.8 million tons of phosphate per year and 200 thousand tons of sulfuric acid, to be used in the production process for generating more than 500 thousand tons of Granulated Superphosphate to be exported through the port of Imbituba, Santa Catarina. Among the expected impacts is the deforestation of native vegetation, the interception of the Pinheiros River for the construction of a tailings dam, intensive use of water resources, changing the landscape and the Pine River basin pollution, with consequences on the Tubarao River basin, one of the most important in the Santa Catarina State.
Since the announcement of the project, environmental NGOs, small farmers, ranchers and businesses that exploit ecotourism and rural tourism in the region have questioned the social and environmental feasibility of the project. Local organizations such as Associacao Montanha Viva has gone public to protest against the project and have already held several public demonstrations to prevent their licensing. This and other organizations have submitted their objections during the public hearings organized by the Santa Catarina State to discuss this project. Lawsuits have also been filed by these groups to block the project.
The Ministerio Publico Federal (MPF) also participates to the conflict and the attorneys has moved public civil actions to block the environmental licensing of the enterprise. The MPF believes that the licensing should have been carried out by the Instituto Brasileiro de Meio Ambiente e Recursos Naturais Renovaveis (IBAMA) and presented a series of irregularities. Studies by experts at the request of the MPF also identified inconsistencies in the methodology used for the preparation of the EIA.
In July 2009, the Tribunal Regional Federal (TRF) suspended the environmental licensing of project. Since then, the IFC has resorted several times, without success, to superior instances. In 2010, the IFC was sold to Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, and the new holding company announced that it would suspend the project until it had been reviewed by its environmental technicians.and the processes moved against the IFC were studies for its legal department. By the time the project is suspended.(See less)