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Iron ore mining in Nova Lima, MG, Brazil


Since 2003, the residents of the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte are fighting against the impacts of iron mining in the vicinity of the Parque Estadual Serra do Rola Moca. Mineral extraction threatens the quality of drinking water supply.

Capão Xavier mine, operated by Mineracoes Brasileiras Reunidas (MBR), a company controlled by Vale SA, is located at the Northwest of the provinces mineral of Quadrilatero Ferrifero (Iron Quadrangle), State of Minas Gerais in the Southeast region of Brazil, bounded by watershed area of steams Seco and Fechos. Capão Xavier mine is situated on four Springs: Ribeirões de Fechos, Mutuca, Catarina e Barreiro, in the basin of Alto Rio das Velhas, responsible for the water supply of 320,000 people - 9% of the population of Belo Horizonte and 7% in the metropolitan region.

It is also located within the boundaries of the area of environmental preservation of Mutuca and is bordered by the Parque Estadual Serra do Rola Moça. The mine presents open air mining for iron ore exploitation. All the ore produced at the mine is processed at the mine ore treatment of Mutuca mine, being transported by dump trucks of 38 t. All mine drainage is directed into the pit.

In 2003, the MBR (Vale) obtained by the Conselho de Politica Ambiental de Minas Gerais (COPAM), licence to mine Capon Xavier, and requested the installation license, which was granted in the same year. In 2004, the operating license was requested, granted a few months later. Some conditions were laid down for the granting of licences, such as: creation of an artificial lake at the site of cava; donation from rural areas to the Parque Estadual Serra do Rola Moca; filling the pit of the Mutuca mine with tailings in order to re-establish the topography of the site.

The environmental impact report submitted by mining company to licensing show that part of the mine Capão Xavier is under the stream basin area Mutuca, considered of special interest for the protection of springs and declared area of permanent preservation by State Decree 21,372 from 1981. The report also shows that mining at that site will cause the stream waters of Fechos have their natural flow reduced by 40%, and the streams of Catherine and Barreiro are around 20% reduction, and irreversible impacts in your area. Another study, prepared by the engineers Helio Lazarim and Celso Loureiro, indicates that, in the region of topographic plateau of Canada Garden District, a neighborhood close to the mine, the relegation of water sheet to the level predicted would result in the disabling of most tanks and underground water tube wells currently in operation in the neighborhood [2]. With the lowering of the level of the water table, the water that supplies the city of Nova Lima, and part of Belo Horizonte, will lose in quality. The release of dust, by blasting of rocks, moving trucks and machines, and gaseous pollutants such as CO and HC, from the combustion of oils, cause great impact by water pollution. In addition, losses in relation to the ground and the relief, caused by excavations and sterile and tailings deposition; opening of access roads, leading to a loss in the quality of life of the population of the surrounding areas, primarily due to noise pollution from noise detonations during dismantle of the ore.

In 2003 was presented by Ministerio Publico do Estado de Minas Gerais a first representation questioning the prior license issued by COPAM [4]. In the same year, in response to a popular action proposed by two State representatives, an injunction ordered the suspension of environmental permits issued. In 2004, a public civil action addressed to the State of Minas Gerais was questioning the licensing due to uncertainties about the environmental impacts that the operation could cause to water resources (in particular, with respect to the public water supply); mainly due to the reduction in the level of the water table [5]. The mine began operating in the second half of 2004, after the Court has suspended the injunction that prevented its operation. Since then, the Movimento Capão Xavier Vivo has been preparing its own reports to defense of springs and water supply rights of citizens of the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte, looking to challenge the reports forwarded by the MBR to environmental agencies and supporting the lawsuits filed against mining company [1, 3]. In 2007, about 600 women gathered at the Via Campesina meeting (landless women, affected by dams, quilombolas, indigenous, peasants, pastoral workers and students) closed the iron ore truck road, interrupting mine activities of Capão Xavier [6].

In June 2010, the Federal Justice suspended the authorization of the mine based on a Popular Action that questioned the environmental licensing process. However, a period of 180 days was allowed for the illegalities to be corrected and for further studies to be carried out. Vale filed a lawsuit and maintained the mine's activities. Additionally, in 2011, Vale also announced new investments in the mine, including the expansion of the pit on areas of the Parque Estadual Serra do Rola Moça [7]. The mine is one of the five mines of Vale's Paraopebas Complex, which produced 27.3 million tons in 2018. It is also part of the Paraopebas Complex the Córrego do Feijão mine, whose dam broke at Brumadinho in January 2019, leaving more than 300 victims.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Iron ore mining in Nova Lima, MG, Brazil
State or province:Minas Gerais
Location of conflict:Belo Horizonte e Nova Lima
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
Specific commodities:Iron ore

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The mine has a reserve of 173 million tons of iron ore, with 22 year operating forecast.

Project area:24
Level of Investment for the conflictive project100,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:2003
Company names or state enterprises:Mineracoes Brazileiras Reunidas (MBR) from Brazil
Vale (Vale) from Brazil - formerly named Companhia Vale do Rio Doce
Relevant government actors:Fundacao Estadual de Meio Ambiente , Secretaria de Estado de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentavel de Minas Gerais , Conselho de Política Ambiental de Minas Gerais , Ministerio Publico do Estado de Minas Gerais , Assembleia Legislativa do Estado de Minas Gerais
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Movimento Capao Xavier Vivo

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The mine is still in operation, their environmental impacts have not been mitigated and the social movement remains mobilised in the struggle for the rights of the population.

Sources & Materials

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

[1] MAPA DE CONFLITOS ENVOLVENDO INJUSTICA AMBIENTAL E SAUDE NO BRASIL. Moradores de Belo Horizonte e Nova Lima lutam contra a Mina de Capao Xavier

[2] Lazarim, H., Loureiro, C. O. Rebaixamento das águas subterrâneas na região em torno da jazida de Capão Xavier, Nova Lima- MG, 2000 Cenário futuro. Capão Xavier, Belo Horizonte.

[3] Welter, I.G. 'O Conflito por agua em Belo Horizonte: O Caso da Mina de Capao Xavier'. 2008. 72 f. Trabalho de Conclusao de Curso (Bacharelado em Ciencias Sociais), Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, 2008.

[4] MINISTÉRIO PÚBLICO DO ESTADO DE MINAS GERAIS. Ministério Público recomenda ao COPAM que não conceda licença para exploração da Mina de Capão Xavier, em Nova Lima. Capão Xavier, Belo Horizonte, 2003.

[5] Ação Civil Pública com pedidos de tutela de urgência cumulada com improbidade administrativa. Capão Xavier , Belo Horizonte, 2004

[6] Capão Xavier Vivo. Nota Do Movimento Capão Xavier Vivo: à Imprensa e à sociedade. Belo Horizonte, 07 de março de 2007.

[7] ALMG. Comissões questionam novo licenciamento para mina Capão Xavier. 26/04/2011

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Movimento Capão Xavier Vivo performs protest

Capão Xavier mine, MBR, in Nova Lima

materias jornal capao/mina1p.jpg

Meta information

Contributor:Diogo Rocha
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:233



Demonstration against the implementation of the Capão Xavier mine


Demonstration against the implementation of the Capão Xavier mine