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Biopalma against indigenous Tembé in the Amazon, Brazil


Since 2006, oil palm expanded over the Pará region. The company VALE  grabbed land in this region, consequently, many people was dispossessed  from their territory and forest was destroyed [3].

According to Cimi report on violence against indigenous people [1], the indigenous peoples denounce the Biopalma da Amazônia company, a subsidiary of Vale, for the impact of the contamination of water courses by pesticides.  The company is accused of disregarding the distance from the water course (known as "igarapé" in the Amazon) that cuts through the indigenous land and of diverting too much water toward their crops. According to the community, the oil palm plantations are drying up the sources of rivers. As a consequences,  the local population are getting ill.  Since 2012, the indigenous Tembé from the North of Pará have been trying to get compensation and mitigation actions for these impacts [2]. They also mentioned that it is mainly men who find work with the companies, but working conditions are often akin to “slavery”.

In 2014 the Evandro Chagas Institute confirmed water contamination with for example, endosulfan, a highly dangerous product for human health and already banned in several countries [4].  In 2016 the Biopalma company asked the the Federal Justice to ban indigenous demostration in the region of oil palm expansion.  However the  Public Ministry - MPF-, requested to the Federal Justice the cancelation of the Biopalma legal process against indigenous people, and the company to participate in a hearing with the També [5].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Biopalma against indigenous Tembé in the Amazon, Brazil
State or province:Pará
Location of conflict:Turé Mariquita and Tekinai
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Specific commodities:Land
Palm oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Their oil palm plantations are located in the Mojú, Tomé-açu, Concóndia do Pará, Bajaiú, Iguarapé-Miri y Acará. Oil palm employs 10,900 people. In 2012, oil palm covered 140,000 hectares in Pará, and 67% of the production went to the food and cosmetics industries and 33 % to biofuels, according to a study by agronomist D’Alembert Jaccoud [6]. Biopalma produces biodiesel for Vale's locomotives, "clean energy" allegedly saving CO2 emissions. Pará is the main producer of palm oil (dende) in Brasil.

There is a palm oil extraction plant belonging to Biopalma to produce biodiesel in the municipality of Moju, 150 km from Belém, at a cost of 500 million USD for building it [7].

Project area:140,000
Level of Investment:500,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:27,000
Start of the conflict:2006
Company names or state enterprises:Biopalma da Amazônia S.A (Biopalma) from Brazil
Vale (Vale) from Brazil
Relevant government actors:Gobierno do Pará
Ministério Público Federal
Promotoria de Justiça, Região Agrária do Pará
International and Finance InstitutionsBanco da Amazonia (BASA) from Brazil
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Instituto Evandro Chagas (IEC)
World Rainforest Movement (WRI)
Conselho Indigenista Missionario (CIMI)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Trade unions
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
També indigenous group
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Occupation of vehicles belonging to the company


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Other Environmental impactsWater contamination by endosulfan
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsIllness from water contamination with endosulfan: blisters, or rashes on their skin, fever and vomiting, also
re-emergence of illnesses such such as Chagas disease.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Under negotiation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The land grabbing and the water grabbing and polluting continues. Use of endosulfan.

Sources & Materials

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

[6] Oil Palm Expands on Deforested Land in Brazil’s Rainforest

[1] Violence against Indigenous Peoples in Brazil

[5] Public Ministry web. Biopalma against indigenous manidestation

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Índios apreendem veículos durante protesto contra empresa no PA

[2] Índios Tembé apreendem carros e tratores da Biopalma contra contaminação por agrotóxicos

[4] Contaminação por agrotóxicos é detectada em região do Pará. The renowned Public Health Institute Evandro Chagas of Belém confirmed those accusations with the detection of agrotoxins in water sources

[[7]Biopalma inaugura primeira usina de extração de óleo de palma no Pará. Assessoria de Imprensa Biopalma 26 Jun 2012. "A Biopalma da Amazônia S.A., empresa da Vale em sociedade com o Grupo MSP, inaugura hoje a sua primeira usina extratora de palma (dendê), localizada no município de Moju, a 150 km" de Belém. "

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Biopalma-Vale programme of oil palm production by family farming

Rádio Nacional da Amazônia

Meta information

Contributor:SM (ICTA-UAB)
Last update09/10/2017



Source: Verena Glass/Repórter Brasil