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Mining project Caçapava do Sul, Rio Camaquã, RGS, Brazil


Although there has been copper mining in the region for about twenty years (1), recently, Votorantim Metais Holding (now Nexa Resources) filed an EIA - RIMA (Environmental Impact Study and Report) in Fepam - RS and realized public hearings to present the project to the population. According to the EIA (dated from 2016), the company has been conducting research on the local since 2008 and has confirmed the economic viability of the extraction of metals. According to the website, this project includes an intention to explore zinc, copper, lead as well as gold and gold as products.

Lead concentrate, which is a heavy metal with high potential contamination, will be extracted in an open well and could contaminate a region's flora and fauna and affect the biodiversity of the Pampa Biome. I sum, copper and zinc will be extracted.

The main controversy is that lead and mining can cause contamination of the river, which passes through 28 municipalities and increase the risk of contamination of livestock (production of cattle and sheep), damaging the export of meat and agricultural production.  Possible effects on human health of these hazardous substances in the environment is also a local population's inquiry. Lead has previously been related to IQ deficits and nervous problems.

After the protest of the risk groups on lead contamination and an intervention of the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), new public hearings were promoted by the Foundation in other municipalities. Appliances and the Machado, where the miner also provided details and provided more information about the EIA-Rima. Soon after, the company's governments control the neighbouring cities of the 28 municipalities that make up the river basin, the region's main watercourse.

The contrary groups for mining are manifesting and opposing in the following manner: with street mobilizations, conducting public hearings, filming and filing lawsuits against a Nexa Resources (Votorantim Metals)

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Mining project Caçapava do Sul, Rio Camaquã, RGS, Brazil
State or province:Rio Grande do Sul
Location of conflict:Caçapava do Sul, Santana da Boa Vista, Bagé, Rio Grande and 26 more municipalities.
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
Specific commodities:Silver

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In a more recent period, in the middle of 2016, Votorantim Metais Holding filed an EIA - RIMA (Study and Environmental Impact Report) at Fepam - RS and held two public hearings to present the project to the population. According to the EIA of the venture (2016) the company has been conducting research on the site since 2008 and would have confirmed the economic viability of the extraction of metals. According to the website, this project includes the intention to explore zinc, copper, lead, as well as silver as a by-product, in Passo do Cação, a locality about five kilometers from Minas do Camaquã. The proposal is to export concentrates of the minerals through the port of Rio Grande to international markets such as Europe and China, or to take advantage of some of them in Votorantim Metals in Minas Gerais (zinc case).

The public hearings, which are conditioning activities for the implementation of the project, took place in Vila de Minas do Camaquã and in Caçapava do Sul in July. The municipalities of Santana da Boa Vista, Bagé and Pinheiro Machado were excluded from the consultation by Fepam, although the three municipalities limit the location of the project and could be impacted by the project. After the protest of community groups in the municipalities and with the intervention of the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), new audiences were promoted by the Foundation. Public hearings were held in Santana da Boa Vista, Bagé and Pinheiro Machado, where the miner also presented details and provided more information about the EIA-Rima. Soon after, the company's plans generated controversy in at least eight municipalities of the 28 municipalities that compose the Camaquã River Basin, which is the main watercourse in the region.

The mining company expects an initial investment of R $ 371 million and announces that it will generate 450 direct jobs with the installation of the project, with potential for generating indirect jobs. The project is in the initial phase of the analysis of EIA-RIMA by Fepam, with the expectation of starting operations in the first quarter of 2020. The extraction of open pit mining projects is expected to produce 16 thousand tons of concentrated zinc per year, 5 thousand copper and 36 thousand lead for 20 years. The company says it will not use a tailings dam.

On the other hand, organized groups and civil society actors (associations, city halls, self-organized groups and university professors), which we will describe in more detail below, are contrary to the establishment of the enterprise in the region. In addition to the possible contamination of the Camaquã River, the soil, the flora and fauna of the region, especially the lead concentrate, these organizations consider that if there was a greater investment in sheep production, since the region has more than 650 thousand sheep heads, to raise more than R $ 120 million. They also denounce that the great generation of jobs promised with the installation of these enterprises will occur outside the region, because the ores will be exported in the crude form. That is, the justification of the enterprise to settle in the region would be neither economic nor social or environmental, but it is only directed to the interests of the company.

Through the Port of Rio Grande it will drain the concentrate of metallic ores, including heavy metal Lead with high capacity of contamination (especially in children), and the community was not consulted or at least informed before the Public Hearing promoted in June of 2017, on the possibility of installation of this undertaking offer risks of contamination to the population and the environment by the sprinkling of ore particles in the air and water. It should be noted that several municipalities that make up the Camaquã river basin were also not consulted or informed about the socio-environmental risks that this venture offers, either because of the possibility of contaminating the waters of the Camaquã River, or by spraying particles along the truck path. will transport the concentrates to the Port of Rio Grande.

Project area:43,000
Level of Investment:109.101.000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:1.000.000
Start of the conflict:01/10/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Nexa Resources from Brazil - Projeto Caçapava do Sul
Votorantim Metais from Brazil
Relevant government actors:*FEPAM - RS
*Secretary of Environment - RS
*Municipalities of Caçapava do Sul and Santana da Boa Vista in favor of the enterprise and other 28 prefectures
*Ministérios Públicos Federal e Estadual
*Federal University of Rio Grande (FURG), Pelotas (UFPel) e do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Association for Sustainable Development do Alto Camaquã (ADAC).
Committee on Traditional Peoples and Communities of Pampa
ONG Amigos da Terra Brasil .
União Pela Preservação do Camaquã (UPP).

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Landless peasants
Religious groups
Social movements
Fisher people
Local government/political parties
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local scientists/professionals
Industrial workers
Informal workers
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Other Environmental impactsBiodiversity contamination with hazardous substances
Health ImpactsPotential: Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Infectious diseases, Other Health impacts
Other Health impacts Lead has previously been related to IQ deficits and nervous problems.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Court decision (undecided)
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Sustainable livestock and beef cattle production and rural tourism.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:It is too early to say but it seems that the company will not gain local consensus.

Sources & Materials

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

Debates on mining in the Pampa biome: social and environmental conflicts in the context of local life projects

The possible mining in the pampa biome and the ore flow through the Rio Grande Port: socio-environmental disputes and impacts

Rio Camaquã - Lead No

Mining projects and their impacts in Brazil are discussed in Rio Grande (RS)

Facebook of the movement União pelo Camaquã

Movement against mining in Camaquã River completes one year and conquers support

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Rio Camaquã. Yes the preservation! Not the mining!

Mining project in Camaquã River divides regional population

Dossier "Viventes"

Environmental Impact Study - EIA

Manifesto on Mining Policies, Plans and Projects in Rio Grande do Sul and on the Caçapava do Sul mining project (from Nexa / ex-Votorantin and Iamgold)

The delivery before the tragedy: Rio Grande do Sul before genocidal mining projects

Mining projects and their impact in Brazil are discussed in Rio Grande (RS)

Heavy metal mining threatens the South Half of RS

Activists march in favor of the preservation of the Camaquã River

Southern RS communities resist the offensive of large mining companies

Other comments:The company displays a progamme to seduce the local population: Programa Parceria Votorantim pela Educação (PVE), realizado em parceria com a Secretaria de Educação de Caçapava do Sul (2)

Meta information

Contributor:Search group DIPEM - FURG - E-mail: [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019



Seminar gathered residents and scholars to discuss impact that works would have in the region | Photo: Fábio Quadros / Sul21


Seminar For Life Against Extractivism and Mining in RS held on October 6, 2017, at UFRGS, presented some victorious cases of mobilizations against large mining projects. (Photo: Maia Rubim / Sul21)


Public Hearing of the Camaquã River Mining Project Risks - Rio Grande do Sul Legislative Assembly - ALERGS


Disclosure Public Hearing on Risks of the Rio Camaquã Mining Project - Rio Grande do Sul Legislative Assembly - ALERGS


Protest pamphlet


Public Hearing of the Camaquã River Mining Project Risks - Rio Grande do Sul Legislative Assembly - ALERGS


Act against the mining of Lead in the Camaquã River


Act in defense of Rio Camaquã 2017


Public Hearing at the Legilslative Assembly of the State of Rio Grande do Sul


Photo "Viventes" Dossier Cover