With the objective of extracting and exporting iron ore from Morro do Pilar in Minas Gerais (Brazil), former Vale and MMX executives created the company Manabi S.A. in 2011. The export of iron ore pellets from the region also depended on the construction of a 512 kilometers pipeline or mineroduct, in 19 municipalities of Minas Gerais and 4 in Espírito Santo, and of a ocean port terminal in the municipality of Linhares (Espírito Santo). The region is already affected by the Anglo American-owned Minas-Rio iron ore project, located in the neighboring municipality of Conceição do Mato Dentro. Morro do Pilar received 19 kilometers of Anglo American pipeline in 2011. During this period, the environmental licensing process of the Morro do Pilar Project was also initiated. The first public hearing to present the venture, part of the licensing process, was held in October 2012 and had the participation of 700 people. At the hearing, Manabi S.A. had shown strong support from the city hall and local trade associations. However, in December 2012, the Minas Gerais Public Prosecutor's Office questioned the licensing process through an inquiry, which emphasized the need for more in-depth studies on the prevention and compensation of the negative impacts of the project. As a result, Manabi signed a Preliminary Statement of Commitment and Social and Environmental Responsibility, pledging to cover the environmental control measures in the course of the licensing process, as well as the analysis of the environmental studies presented to the environmental agency.
Despite the Statement, in March 2013, Manabi S.A. and the Government of the State of Minas Gerais already signed a Memorandum of Understanding on mining exploration, assuming an investment of R $ 6.25 billion in the State (approximately US $ 2 billion). Associations and NGOs – particularly the Association of Organic Environmental Conservation (ACAÓ), Santa Maria de Itabira, and the NGO 4 Cantos do Mundo – criticized the Memorandum, arguing that the political agreement created a commitment that disregarded the environmental licensing process and the potential for democratic participation.
Also, in 2014, state and federal prosecutors and researchers emphasized the need for additional socioeconomic studies in the areas affected by mining, especially in relation to traditional and quilombola communities. Both the Minas Gerais Public Prosecution Service and the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office signed recommendations in this regard. Among the groups of researchers, the Brazilian Association of Anthropology and the Group Environmental Thematic Studies (GESTA) of the Federal University of Minas Gerais have spoken out in defense of traditional communities. The GESTA filed a letter for the Attorney General of Minas Gerais, criticizing the insufficiency and inconsistencies of the information provided by Manabi regarding traditional communities and reinforcing Minas Gerais’ Law 21.147 of 2014, which ensures that traditional peoples and communities remain in their territories and the full exercise of their individual and collective rights.
Despite the criticisms, the Preliminary License to the Morro do Pilar Project was granted in November 2014. While the mine in Morro do Pilar had its licensing process conducted by the state environmental agency of Minas Gerais, the process for the licensing of the pipeline and the port terminal was conducted by IBAMA. Opposition to the pipeline and to the port terminal was more intense, especially from January 2014, when four public hearings in the municipalities of Ferros, Naque, Conselheiro Pena (MG) e Linhares (ES) were convened by IBAMA. Several criticisms of the environmental licensing process, the undemocratic character of the hearings and the environmental impact reports were carried out by associations (Associação de Defesa e Desenvolvimento Ambiental de Ferros/MG-ADDAF and Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores-MPA), by virtual signature campaigns (Avaaz, 2014) and by some municipal administrations in the path of the pipeline (in Açucena, in Conceição do Mato Dentro and in Rio Acima). Also, an independent technical report, analyzing the EIA/RIMA, was delivered and filed at IBAMA in February 2014, signed by geographers, biologists, oceanographers, historians, environmental advisers. The document pointed out that the EIA / RIMA did not specify in detail the impacts the municipalities where the pipeline will pass, especially on traditional communities (including Krenak Indigenous Land, Quilombola communities and artisanal fishermen) and small farmers, as well as other dozens of small villages. The locational decision of the port complex was also criticized by the report, especially for the threat to the reproductive cycles of the marine biota that the system would provoke. Finally, in the same period, a Bill of Popular Initiative was drafted by citizens of Ferros and some neighboring municipalities, with ADDAF participation, aiming to include in art. 5 of Law 15,082 of 2004 the Santo Antônio River and its tributaries to the set of permanent preservation rivers of the State of Minas Gerais. They argued that these rivers, which are part of the Rio Doce macro-basin, are inserted in areas considered as High and Extremely High priority for the conservation of biodiversity by the Federal Government and play a decisive role in the regional ecological balance.
In May of 2015, in line with the recommendation of the independent technical report, IBAMA concluded by the infeasibility of the pipeline and port projects. The Institute's team recommended that a new location was studied for the port and that several clarifications were provided. The main reason was that the installation of the port terminal would cause irreversible and non-mitigable impacts on the species Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback turtle). The terminal also interposed two priority ecological corridors of Espírito Santo. IBAMA also considered that there was a legal impediment to the construction of the pipeline due to the cancellation of the certificate of compliance of the use and occupation of the soil by the Municipality of the municipality of Capitão Andrade in Minas Gerais.
At the same time, the reduction in the international price of iron ore changed the planning of Manabi S.A.. First, the company underwent a merger with the Brazilian shipping company Asgaard in 2015. After the merger, Manabi was renamed MLog. Secondly, MLog's focus shifted from mining to logistics of port terminals and shipping. In order to continue the port terminal in Linhares, MLgo redesigned the project to install an industrial pole and a multipurpose port, which would then be licensed only by the environmental agency of Espírito Santo, increasing its possibility of approval. The mining project in Morro do Pilar stagnated and only in 2018 the MLog restarted the licensing process. In February 2018, the company made a request to extend the deadline of the Preliminary License (LP), which would expire in November 2018. Depending on the licensing and the investments made, the extraction could start in 2021.