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Cana Brava Amianto´s Mining in Minaçu, Goiás, Brazil


Asbestos or Amianto is a mineral able to resist high levels of temperatures. It is used in manufactured products, building materials, and the automobile industry. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies Amianto as a carcinogen and it was completely banned in Europe since 2005. Nevertheless, in some States of Brazil, the Amianto remains legal. By the end of 1930´s the Amianto consumed in Brazil was imported. The exploration and exploitation began in 1940 when the Anonymous Society of Asbestos Mining (Sama) owned by Saint Gobain (France) settled in Poções (State of Bahia), in Sao Felix do Amianto. The mine operated until 1967, due to the exhaustion of the reserves. The same year (1967) the company SAMA moved to Minaçu (State of Goiás) where they began to explore the mine “Cana Brava”.  Since then, Minaçu  -The Big Mine in tupi-guaraní language- is known as the “capital of amianto”, this is the only amianto mine in operation in Brazil. The Brazilian Association of those Exposed to Asbestos (Abrea) states that contact with amianto represents a serious public health problem. According to with them, because of the exposure to amianto, dozens of people have died of cancer and respiratory diseases. Mesothelioma is one of the most common (this is a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs) In the so-called "bed of dust", where the ore was separated, workers, among them many women, were covered with dust. Evandra Vieira Brito, who lost her husband (ex-employee of Sama), with cancer in 2009, remembers: "There were about 20 girls covered by dust. They all died vomiting blood" After that Amianto was banned in Europe, a draft-law initiative was purposed by a senator to the Brazilian parliament in order to ban the extraction, industrialization, importation, transportation, and storage in Brazil.  Nevertheless, SAMA group and the local government of Minaçu are claiming the continuing of their use claiming that this is one of the most sources of employment in Minaçu. And this is true, criticizing amianto mining is endangering the city's only employer. About 70% of the taxes collected by the municipality came from this activity. Groups in favor, have stated that the “way in how amianto is extracted in Minaçu is not damaging health” and that “the company is respecting all the laws related to occupational health”. They also state that the people ill right now in Minaçu it because their get ill in the previous mine (in BA) as some of them also migrated because of work. In this case, (Saint Gobain is the main responsible).  According to a report by the Ministry of Health, 2,400 people have already died from amianto -related diseases between 2000 and 2010. "The trend will increase in the number of cases in the next few years" concluded the report. And this is because the exposure to amianto can lead to the disease up to 10 years after the exposure. The position of the Brazilian government is a controlled use.  Around the world 100,000 people die every year for being exposed to amianto in their work environment (WHO,2006). 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Cana Brava Amianto´s Mining in Minaçu, Goiás, Brazil
State or province:Goiás
Location of conflict:Minaçu
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral processing
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Asbestos
Crisotila (White Amianto);

Project Details and Actors

Project details

-70% of the taxes collected by Minaçu came from the amianto mining activity

-300,000 tons of amianto per year

-This mine is the third largest chrysotile asbestos mine (after Russia and Canada)

-The mine has 800 employees and 400 service providers.

Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:30,000
Company names or state enterprises:Eternit
Sama Sociedade Anonima Mineracao de Amianto from Brazil
Saint-Gobain from France - owner of SAMA until 1967
Relevant government actors:Tribunal Superior Federal ;Instituto Brasileiro da Crisotila;Ministério das Minas e Energia (MME); Ministério da Saúde (MS);
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Brazilian Association of Exposed to Asbestos (ABREA); International Federation of Asbestos Workers (FITAC);

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Mine tailing spills, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Deaths, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Potential: Malnutrition, Infectious diseases
Other Health impactsMesothelioma (type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:-To ban the use of asbestos in all Brazil
-Other groups only want to control its use (this is also the position of the Brazilian government)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Economic arguments prevail over health issues. Despite the health impact, the company SAMA is seeing as the main employer and the motor of the economic activity in Minaçu.

Sources & Materials

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

Exploração de amianto em Minaçu (GO) afeta moradores e meio ambiente

Relatório do Grupo de Trabalho da Comissão de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável da Câmara dos Deputados destinado à análise das implicações do uso do amianto no Brasil

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Sob pressão, amianto prospera em Minaçu

Amianto, a fibra que mata

Uso do amianto será debatido na Comissão de Direitos Humanos

Minaçu, a cidade que respira o amianto

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Associação Brasileira dos Expostos ao Amianto

Meta information

Contributor:Grettel Navas, ENVJustice Project
Last update13/07/2017




Minaçu Mine, Goiás