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Volta Grande Mining Project, Pará, Brasil


Description:

Volta Grande is expected to be the biggest gold mine in Brazil. It will be located in Senador José Porfírio municipality, State of Pará (one of the most important hot spots of the Amazon Biome). This is the same region where the Belo Monte Dam has caused big social and environmental impacts. Volta Grande project comprises an open-pit, a gold recovery process facility, water and tailings management and supporting infrastructure. Is expected to extract 150 tons of gold in 17 years.

On February 2017 the State Secretary of Environmental and Sustainability (SEMAS) approved the license to Belo Sun Mining Company (subsidiary of Belo Sun Mining Corporation part of Forbes & Manhattan Inc group). Belo Sun Mining is a Canada-based mineral exploration and development company with a portfolio of gold-focused properties in Brazil. The approval was made without consulting the local communities.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (2012) concludes that all “the species found and the structures of the forest indicate that the remnants have already changed” and that the negative environmental effects will be almost invisible. Meanwhile the social impacts will grow. Local and traditional communities such as fishermen (ribeirinhos); artisanal miners (garimpeiros) and the indigenous complain against this project because of the future risk and future damage to the Xingú River. To extract the gold the company will use toxics such as cyanide will could impact the water of the river. Furthermore, this project will be only 11 km away from the Belo Monte Dam which will increase the environmental damage. But The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) provides no details regarding the interaction between both projects, neither their accumulative impact.

To contain the toxic waste, the company plans to build a dam of 96 million cubic meters. One of the engineers who prepared the report commissioned by Belo Sun certifying that the project is feasible and safe, is the same that signed the report that guaranteed the stability of the Fundão dam in Mariana (MG). (Which caused one enormous environmental disaster - 2015). Since 2013, a broad group of EJOS from Brazil, Canada, the United States and Europe joined a campaign in defense of indigenous and traditional communities threatened by Belo Sun. A public letter was signed by 44 organizations.

On November, 2013, a Federal Judge in Altamira suspended Belo Sun’s environmental licensing process over questions surrounding the Environmental Impact Assessment’s validity and legality since it does not address potential effects on indigenous communities in the area. This was quickly appealed by the company and overturned. On December, 2013, the Environmental Council of the Pará State approved the EIA, granting the company it’s Preliminary License. It does not appear that the company made any changes to the EIA.

On February 2017 the Ombudsman of Pará calls for suspension of the environmental license. Belo Sun is currently trying to attain the proper permits and licensing to build. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Volta Grande Mining Project, Pará, Brasil
Country:Brazil
State or province:Pará
Location of conflict:Altamira, Souzel, Anapu, Brasil Novo, Vitória do Xingu, Porto de Moz and Gurupá
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
Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific commodities:Gold

Project Details and Actors

Project details

-Estimated capacity to produce 50 tonnes of gold in 12 years of operation.

-The project is expected to generate 2,100 direct jobs in the deployment phase, and 526 in the operational phase.

-Over the 12 years, the company must pay more than R $ 60 million in mining royalties to the state - almost R $ 5 million per year. The amount paid in taxes should be even higher: about R $ 130 million for the country, state and municipality during the installation period, and then R $ 55 million per year. (100 R$ is around 30 US$ in March 2017)

-The project also provides for the construction of a tailings dam.

Project area:1400
Level of Investment:380.077.000,00
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:around 5000
Start of the conflict:2013
Company names or state enterprises:Belo Sun Mining Corporation from Canada - Owner
Belo Sun Mineração Ltda from Brazil - Subsidiary
Relevant government actors:Secretaria de Meio Ambiente e Sustentabilidade do Pará (Semas); Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama);Departamento Nacional de Produção Mineral (DNPM);Conselho Estadual de Meio Ambiente (Coema); Ministério Público Federal (MPF);
International and Finance InstitutionsForbes & Manhattan Inc from Canada - owner of Belo Sun Mining Co.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:EJos: Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (MAB);Instituto Socioambiental (ISA);
Supporters: State of Pará Ombudsman (Defensor Publico), National Council of Human Rights; Amazon Watch;International Rivers.

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Objections to the EIA claiming the accumulative impacts of the project adding the Belo Monte dam

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Mine tailing spills, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Potential: Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsThe EIA has identified archaeological findings in significant quantities.

Outcome

Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:To continue with the traditional activities such as fishing, agriculture.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Despite that the Federal Judge in Altamira suspended Belo Sun’s environmental licensing process, the company focuses on continuing with the exploration phase.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

AÇÃO CAUTELAR Contra o ESTADO DO PARÁ,
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BymSev7h91aZZHFlUzJMV1R1ajA/view

ILO 169: Indigenous and tribal peoples
http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/indigenous-tribal/lang--en/index.htm

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

RELATÓRIO DE IMPACTO AMBIENTAL - RIMA
http://www.sema.pa.gov.br/download/2BSML001-1-EA-RIM-0002_RIMA_REVISADO.pdf

Belo Sun recebe Licença de Instalação e irá operar maior mina de ouro do país
https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2017/02/02/belo-sun-recebe-licenca-de-instalacao-e-ira-operar-maior-mina-de-ouro-do-pais/

Defensoria do Pará pede a suspensão da licença ambiental de Belo Sun
http://g1.globo.com/pa/para/noticia/2017/01/defensoria-do-para-pede-suspensao-da-licenca-ambiental-de-belo-sun.html

Canadian Mining Project Seeks License Despite Environmental Irregularities
http://amazonwatch.org/news/2013/1010-canadian-mining-project-seeks-license-despite-environmental-irregularities

Projeto para exploração de ouro em Senador José Porfírio gera polêmica
http://g1.globo.com/pa/para/noticia/2016/06/projeto-para-exploracao-de-ouro-em-senador-jose-porfirio-gera-polemica.html

Governo concede licença para Belo Sun extrair ouro na região do Xingu
http://g1.globo.com/pa/para/noticia/2017/02/governo-concede-licenca-para-belo-sun-extrair-ouro-na-regiao-do-xingu.html

Brasil De Fato, 12 motivos para barrar a instalação de Belo Sun no rio Xingu
https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2017/02/09/12-motivos-para-barrar-a-instalacao-de-belo-sun-no-rio-xingu/

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Public Sign-on Letter: Belo Sun No!
http://amazonwatch.org/assets/files/2013-belo-sun-no.pdf

Other documents

AÇÃO CAUTELAR Contra o ESTADO DO PARÁ,
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/2747/cautelar_inominada_BELO__SUN-ESTADO_DO_PARA-agraria-ambiental.pdf

Public Letter Against Belo Sun
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/2747/2013-belo-sun-no.pdf

Meta information

Contributor:EnvJustice Project (G.N.O)
Last update18/08/2019

Images

 

Location of the project

 

Belo Sun