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Iron ore mining in Curral Novo, Piauí, Brazil


The Brazilian state of Piauí is not traditionally a mining state. However, the existence of reserves of iron ore, diamonds, phosphorus, nickel, marble, limestone and clay and the construction of Transnordestina Railway that will connect Piauí to two important ports (Suape, Pernambuco and Pecém, Ceará) has attracted mining companies in the region. The mining company Brasil Exploração Mineral S.A. (BEMISA), since 2008, began the exploration research in the municipalities of Curral Novo do Piauí, Paulistana and Simões to enable the extraction and exportation of iron ore. BEMISA was founded in the previous year (2007) and, when commodities prices were high, promptly developed 10 mining projects – four of them to extract iron ore – in seven Brazilian states. The BEMISA mining project could affect up to 1000 people mainly in rural communities in Curral Novo do Piauí, among these Baixo dos Belos, Manga Velha, Lagoa do Ovo, Sítio do Juá, Caititu and Garapa. The first mobilizations against the project arose when the process of environmental licensing was already advanced.

The first public hearing to present the Environmental Impact Report, as provided by Brazilian law, was held in Paulistana in April 2012 and the Installation License was granted by the State Secretariat for Environment and Water Resources (SEMAR-PI) in November 2012. In the course of licensing, communities began to question the lack of information and assistance, the licensing process itself and the fact that they did not have the right to speak at the public hearing. In May 15, 2013, more than 50 people attended a meeting in Curral Novo to discuss the processes of expropriation and the low indemnity proposals for their lands by BEMISA. At the request of the communities, which belong to Ecclesial Base Communities (ECBs) (Catholic groups)  representatives of the diocesan clergy and the Bishop of Picos, Dom Plínio José Luz da Silva, were also present in the meeting. In addition to committing himself to seek answers from the authorities, the Bishop of Picos helped to establish a dialogue between the communities and the Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), which began to follow the conflict closely. In August 2013, a seminar was organized by CPT with the families affected by the project in the traditional quilombola community Caititu. The  conflict on land negotiations and family displacements led the Public Prosecutor's Office to hold a hearing in April 2014 in which families complained that they were being pressured to sell their land by representatives of BEMISA. After the public hearing, the Caritas Diocesana de Picos, in partnership with the CPT, organized a meeting with the communities, who were dissatisfied with the results of the hearing. As a result, an organizing commission was formed for those affected by the project to discuss monthly issues such as socio-environmental and socio-cultural impacts, legal order, and traditional communities. Also, a Solidarity Pilgrimage was organized with families affected by mining, held in August 2014, during which protests were held through banners and testimonies.

Between August 17 and 19, 2015, the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) of Piauí carried out the "Mission of communities in defense of life", in which about 30 missionaries visited more than 200 families in 19 communities affected by the iron mining project and the Transnordestina Railway in the municipalities of Curral Novo, Simões and Paulistana. Missionaries and communities gathered at the end of the Mission and made a series of proposals, including review of the criteria for indeminities, environmental licensing, supervision of abuses of power exercised by companies, and consultation with communities, in accordance with Convention 169 of the ILO,. 

On August 31, 2015, a protest was held in the city of Paulistana, occupying the road BR 407 and following the main streets of the city asking for justice regarding the compensation of families affected by the Transnordestina Railway and review of the environmental licensing of the iron ore mining project. Finally, a second mission was organized by the CPT in July 2016, when representatives of the communities, the rural workers' union, lawyers of the Collective Antônia Flor, the Bishop of the Diocese of Picos and BEMISA met to discuss the threats and pressures that the residents suffered from the company to leave their homes.

Since then, the project has apparently been paralyzed and pressures for land sales, as well as land purchases, have ceased. Although there are no official declarations of BEMISA on the subject, more than the conflict with the communities, the delay and the absence of forecasts for the conclusion of Transnordestina Railroad should be the most evident reason for the paralysis of the mining project.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Iron ore mining in Curral Novo, Piauí, Brazil
State or province:Piauí
Location of conflict:Paulistana, Curral Novo and Simões
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
Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral processing
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Iron ore

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

Measured, indicated and Inferred iron ore resources of about 1,003 Mt at low grade (27.05% Fe).

The estimated extraction per year is of 15 Mt (with iron grade above 70% after beneficiation).

The BEMSA iron ore project is linked to another local project, the Transnordestina Railway.

Project area:10,000
Level of Investment:1,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,000
Start of the conflict:15/05/2013
Company names or state enterprises:Brasil Exploração Mineral S.A. (BEMISA) from Brazil - BEMISA started and developed the Planato Piauí Project
Relevant government actors:Piauí Government
VALEC Engenharia, Construções e Ferrovias S.A. (mains shareholdes of Transnordestina Railroad)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Comissão Pastoras da Terra (CPT):
Comunidades Eclesiais de Base (ECB):
Collective Antônia Flo.
Bishop of the Diocese of Picos

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Religious groups
Quilombola communities
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Although there are no official declarations of BEMISA on the subject, more than the conflict with the communities, the delay and the absence of forecasts for the conclusion of Transnordestina Railroad is the most evident reason for the paralysis of the mining project.

Sources and Materials

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

Sousa, A.B. Conflito, luta e resistência camponesa no semiárido piauiense frente aos projetos mineração e transnordestina. Instituto de políticas públicas e relações internacionais - UNESP (Master dissertation). São Paulo, 2016.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Mission organized by Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT)-Piauí in region affected by iron ore mining and Transnordestina Railway projects (August 2015)

Map of conflicts involving environmental injustice and health in Brazil (Fiocruz, Brazil)

II Mission to defend Communities affected by Mining organized by Comissão Pastoral da Terra -CPT-Piauí (May 8, 2016)

Training course for Popular Jurists in Mining in Curral Novo (PI) organized by Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) - Piauí (August 2017)

Other documents

Water reservoir in the semi-arid region of Piauí that will be affected by iron mining project Water reservoir used for raising small animals, mainly goats. Source: Diocese de Picos. Available at:

Meta information

Contributor:Beatriz Macchione Saes, Usp, [email protected]
Last update10/07/2018



Water reservoir in the semi-arid region of Piauí that will be affected by iron mining project

Water reservoir used for raising small animals, mainly goats. Source: Diocese de Picos. Available at: