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Claiming against “black powder” at Tubarão Port in Vitória, Brazil


The Tubarão Port is the largest iron ore export terminal in the world. It is located in Victoria, the capital of the State of Espírito Santo in Brazil. Since 2009 people in the neighborhoods noticed "black powder" in their environment and especially inside their homes. This "Black powder" is a combination of iron ore and others pollutants present in the air because of the activity of the Tubarão Port. In February 2015, the local legislature set up a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (PCI) to find out the responsibility, and they concluded that Vale, Arcellor Mital and Samarco are the companies responsible for this emissions.

In 2013 has emerged the campaign "Juntos-SOS ES Ambiental" which is a network of around 12 social and environmental organizations in order to manifest and strength efforts against pollutants of Tubarão Port.  Due to the increase in the toxic air pollution, in 2016, a Brazilian federal court ordered the suspension of activities. The court order paralyzed imports and exports of metals such as iron.

From a public health perspective, an international study on childhood respiratory disease has shown that the incidence of asthma in Espírito Santo is 27.8% higher than the national average; rhinitis is 80, 2% higher and rhinoconjunctivitis, 66.6%. A gap in the environmental legislation: According to the Secretary of Environment of Vitoria (Dione Miranda), despite the disrespect and health risk in the community, nobody would be punished. The argument was that the environmental legislation of the State and municipality do not contemplate sanctions.  Meanwhile, the government has proposed countervailing measures as the creation of an Environmental Fund supported by the companies to monitor and inspect the air and environmental pollution; the building of health infrastructures such as Hospital and special units to treat specific diseases. Meanwhile, people in Victoria still protesting against the pollution of their environment and facing health damage.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Claiming against “black powder” at Tubarão Port in Vitória, Brazil
State or province:Espírito Santo
Location of conflict:Grande Vitória (Cariacica, Fundão, Guarapari, Serra, Viana, Vila Velha e Vitória)
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Lead
Iron ore

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Tubarão Port is one of the most important iron ore terminals in the world. In 2015 Its docks loaded 82.5 million tons of iron ore destined for steelmakers around the world.

Tubarão Port also handles coal imports and steel exports for the Brazilian unit of ArcelorMittal SA (France), the world's largest steelmaker.

Relating to the pollution, Vale said in a statement that it has spent Us. $193 million between 2007 and 2014 improving environmental control systems at the port an amount that will rise, but it seems if not enough to stop pollution and damage neighbors´ health.

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:Direct and indirect: 327 000
Start of the conflict:2009
Company names or state enterprises:Samarco from Brazil
Acellor Mittal from France
Vale (Vale) from Brazil
Relevant government actors:Assembleia Legislativa do Espírito Santo (Ales); Instituto Estadual de Meio Ambiente (LEMA); Instituto Estadual de Meio Ambiente e Recursos Hídricos (IEMA);
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Associação Juntos SOS ES Ambiental.
Supporters: Technology Center of the Federal University of the State (UFES);

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts, Air pollution, Soil contamination
Potential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Other Environmental impactsImpact in domestic animals
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsRespiratory infections and cardiovascular diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Other socio-economic impacts, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement
Other socio-economic impactsSpecific impact on children, elderly and pregnant women. According to WHO, they are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of pollution.


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Development of alternatives:none identified.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:In the past, the court has ordered to paralyzed imports and exports of metals such as iron because of the high levels of pollution. But these temporary actions remain insufficient.

Sources & Materials

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

Air pollution and its impacts on health in Vitoria, Espirito Santo, Brazil

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Poluição por pó preto volta a ultrapassar os limites em Vitória

Moradores reclamam da poluição causada pelo pó preto em Vitória

Vale: After de mud, the black powder

Três empresas são responsáveis por emissão de pó preto no ES, diz CPI

ES: ato contra poluição chama Vitória de capital do pó preto,a15d104598efa410VgnVCM3000009af154d0RCRD.html

ArcelorMittal nega poluir com pó preto

Brazil court orders closure of Vale's Tubarão iron ore port

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Medição do pó preto no ar da Grande Vitória não é feita há cinco meses

Juntos -SOS-ES Ambiental , facebook campaing

Meta information

Contributor:ENVJustice Project (G.N)
Last update01/02/2019



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