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Pitinga cassiterite mine, Amazonas, Brazil

The Pitinga mining complex is emblematic for Brazil’s historical injustice against indigenous population and the systematic downplaying of environmental pollution and the risks associated with tailings dams.


The Pitinga mine in the Northern Brazilian Amazon region, in the municipality of Presidente Figueiredo and 250 km from Manaus, is the world’s largest undeveloped cassiterite deposit. Mining operations controversially started in 1981 by Taboca S.A., initially a subsidiary of the influential Paranapanema mining group and since 2009 owned by the Peruvian company Minsur. Cassiterite is the main source of tin and widely used in the industry, for example, to manufacture food cans. In addition, the mine bears large deposits of niobite (niobium ore) and tantalite (tantalum ore), whose extraction has become more important with the rise of the electronics industry in the last two decades, as well as uranium. [1][2][3][4][5]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Pitinga cassiterite mine, Amazonas, Brazil
State or province:Amazonas
Location of conflict:Pitinga, Presidente Figueiredo
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Land
Cassiterite. Tin. Tantalum. Niobium.
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Complexo Mínero-Metalúrgico do Pitinga is the most important mine in the state of Amazonas and the world’s largest cassiterite deposit. According to the Mining Atlas, the mine has created an oversupply of tin on the market and caused decreases in world prices. About 1,200 workers are employed on the site. The mining complex is estimated to still bear 420,000 tons of tin, 504,000 tons of niobium and 53,000 tons of tantalum as well as an estimated 150,000 tons of uranium linked to the tin mineral complexes. The mining takes nowadays place from primary rock extraction (primarily Madeira Nb-Ta-Sn deposits and Água Boa granite) as the more accessible alluvial deposits have become exhausted in 2012. In 2009, the Paranapanema group sold Mineração Taboca to the Peruvian Minsur mining group, the world third largest tin producer, which over the last years has invested in new mining technology, leading to record high in tin output and constant increases in niobium and tantalum production. Tantalum is a key material for the electronics industry but also for space and pipeline technologies. Brazil is one of the world’s major tantalum exporters and has 61% of the world deposits of tantalum. Tantalum-niobium alloys are sold to AMG Brasil S.A. (formerly known as Companhia Industrial Fluminense) in Minas Gerais as well as directly to Europe and Asia. [1][4] [14][21][22]

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Project area:130,000 concession area; 17,000 currently mined area
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1979
Company names or state enterprises:Mineração Taboca S.A. from Brazil - Operator of mining and hydroelectric complex
Paranapanema from Brazil - Controlled Taboca until 2009
Minsur from Peru - Owns Taboca since 2009
AMG Brasil S.A. from Brazil - Processes mineral alloys from Pitinga
Relevant government actors:National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM)
Instituto de Proteção Ambiental do Amazonas (Ipaam)
Comissão de Geodiversidade e Recursos Hídricos, Minas, Gás e Saneamento Básico da Assembleia Legislativa do Amazonas (ALE-AM)
International and Finance InstitutionsBanco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) from Brazil
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:CIMI (Indigenist Missionary Council)
Associação Waimiri-Atroari
COIAB (Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira)
Waimiri Atroari Resistance Support Movement (MAREWA)
Comissão de Meio Ambiente da Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil Amazonas
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Waimiri Atroari group (self-denomination: Kinja)
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Accidents
Potential: Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Land demarcation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Mining and related developmentalist projects came with a historical injustice against the indigenous population and have caused devastating impacts on the communities and the local environment since the 1970s. While the confrontations and resistance have attenuated, mining extraction is ongoing and has raised new concerns regarding security and environmental standards.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Decreto Lei 85.898/81

Decreto Lei 86.630/81

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

10. Chagas A., Pessoa F, Medeiros J, Py-Daniel V, Mesquita E, Balestrassi D. (2006): Leishmaniose tegumentar americana (LTA) em uma vila de exploração de minérios - Pitinga, município de Presidente Figueiredo, Amazonas, Brasil. Rev Bras Epidemiol. 2006/9, pp. 186–192.
[click to view]

6. Baines, S. (2008): The Reconstruction of Waimiri-Atroari Territory. In: Oliveira, A. (ed.): Decolonising Indigenous Rights, pp. 45–64. New York: Routledge.

3. Instituto Socioambiental (2000): Povos indígenas no Brasil: 1996/2000, p. 365-369.
[click to view]

24. Warhurst, A. (1999): Mining and the Environment: Case Studies from the Americas. Ottawa: IDRC.

19. Sales, C. (2018): Licenciamento Ambiental de Atividades de Mineração em Unidades de Conservação do Amazonas: incidência, suporte jurídico-administrativo e aperfeiçoamento. Instituto Nacional de Pesquisa da Amazônia – INPA Programa de Pós-Graduação em Gestãode Áreas Protegidas na Amazônia – MPGAP.
[click to view]

Mendo, J. (2009): Produto RT 29. Perfil da Mineração da Tantalita.
[click to view]

J. Mendo
[click to view]

4. Brentano, L. (2011): Em mina que produz elemento base para celular, aparelhos não funcionam. G1 Globo, 09.05.2011. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

2. Plurais Blog (2017): Mineração Taboca. 20.10.2017. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

22. Mining Atlas (2019): Pitinga. A Tin Mine in Brazil. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

13. Lima, J. (2004): US$ 55 milhões para salvar mina do Pitinga. A Critica, 12.04.2004, Economia, p. 49. (retrieved from ISA)
[click to view]

7. Albuquerque, R. (2016): Mina do Pitinga, 35 anos de controvérsias e nada a comemorar. 06.06.2016. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

1. BNAmericas (2014): Pitinga tin mine, boost Peru reserves. 03.04.2014. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

9. Abya Yala News (2019): “Radioactive Waste Buried in Brazilian Amazon” - Journal of the South and Meso American Indian Rights Center (SAIIC), 7, no. 3 &4 (1993). [reproduction of original article]
[click to view]

15. Portal Conexão (2015): Mina do Pitinga representa perigo real de desmoronamento. Vcnamiracompensa. 21.11.2015. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

11. Portal De Peru (2004): Indios de la tribu Waimiri-Atroari bloquean la entrada de la mina de casiterita de Pitinga, Brasil, el de Octubre de 2004 durante una protesta. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

21. IBRAM (2015): Minsur investe US$ 12 Mi em operação de estanho no Brasil. 21.01.2015. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

12. Capazoli, U. (1996): Waimiri-Atroari. Caderno Extra – O Estado de S. Paulo, 08.12.2996. (retrieved from
[click to view]

14. International Tin Association (2018): Another record year for Pitinga. 05.03.2018. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

5. Salomon, M. (2009): Amazônia ampliará sobra de urânio no país. Folha de S. Paulo, 19.10.2009. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

8. Schwade, E. (2015): Mineração criminosa. In: Porantim, November 2015, p. 10.
[click to view]

23. Minsur (2018): MEMORIA ANUAL 2018.
[click to view]

25. Menezes, D. (2009): Trabalho e relações de trabalho na Mineração Taboca. Dissertação, UFAM Manaus.

17. Gonçalves, S. (2019): Sem garantia de segurança: barragens do Amazonas têm dados desatualizados. A Crítica, 28.01.2019. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

18. A Crítica (2019): OAB-AM pede que Ipaam vistorie barragens de alto risco em Presidente Figueiredo. A Crítica, 28.01.2019. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

20. G1 Globo (2019): Acordo com mineradora acerta destinação de quase R$ 8 milhões em recursos para meio ambiente, no AM. 26.04.2019. (Online, last access: 05.06.2019)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

16. Portal A Crítica (2015): Chagas denuncia condições precárias de trabalho em mineradora de Presidente Figueiredo. Youtube, 19.11.2015.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Max Stoisser
Last update08/10/2019
Conflict ID:4311
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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