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Uranium mining in Caetite, Brazil


The project consists basically in the mining and milling of uranium in the municipality of Caetite, Bahia state, Brazil. The method of uranium extraction is open-pit mining and the milling process is lixiviation in piles. All mined uranium is to be used domestically, after conversion and enrichment abroad (Canada and Netherlands, respectively). The amount of uranium explored is sufficient to supply the two Brazilian nuclear power plants currently in operation. This case involves workplace accidents, tailing spills, potential soil and water contamination, and uncertain risks (e.g. cancer) to the health of the workers and the population which lives in the surrounded area of the mine.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Uranium mining in Caetite, Brazil
State or province:Bahia
Location of conflict:Caetite
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral processing
Mineral ore exploration
Land acquisition conflicts
Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Uranium

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The reserves are estimated at 100,000 tons of pure uranium oxide, without others minerals of interest associated to it. The production capacity of uranium concentrate (yellowcake) is 400 tons/year. But, considering that more nuclear plants are planned in the National Energy Plan 2030, the goal for the next few years is to duplicate production of yellowcake to 800 tons/year.

Project area:130000
Type of populationUnknown
Company names or state enterprises:Nuclear Industries (INB) from Brazil - which is connected to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Brazil.
Relevant government actors:Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources , Institute of Water Management and Climate of Bahia , Nuclear Energy National Commission (CNEN).
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Associacao Movimento Paulo Jackson – Etica, Justica, Cidadania (AMPJ); Greenpeace Brasil; Grupo Ambientalista da Bahia (GAMBA); Comissao Paroquial de Meio Ambiente de Caetite; Comissao Pastoral da Terra (CPT); Plataforma Dhesca Brasil

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageUnknown
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Desertification/Drought
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Lei Nacional de Recursos Hidricos (Water Resources Act) Lei numero 9.433, 8 de janeiro de 1997.

Constitution of the Federative Republic of Brazil

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

DHESCA BRASIL. Relatorio da Missao Caetite: Violacoes dos Direitos Humanos no Ciclo do Nuclear. 2011.

GREENPEACE. O Ciclo do Perigo: Impactos da producao de combustivel nuclear no Brasil. Sao Paulo, Greenpeace Brasil, 2008.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Mapa da Injustica Ambiental e Saude no Brasil:

Other comments:It is also important to mention that there is a brutal case of conflict of interests concerning the regulatory system of the Brazilian nuclear sector, because the most important agency to control radioactive activities is CNEN (Nuclear Energy National Commission), which is at the same time the most important shareholder of INB.

Meta information

Contributor:Renan Finamore
Last update08/04/2014