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Itataia Project for Uranium and Phosphate mining in Santa Quitéria, Ceará, Brazil


In 1976 a mineral deposit of uranium was discovered in the municipality of Santa Quitéria, State of Ceará.  In 2006, the federal government shows interest in exploring the deposit. By this year (2016), the aim of the Brazilian Nuclear Industries (INB) was to extract uranium and phosphate (for the agroindustry). As well, in accordance with the Government of the State of Ceará, the uranium will be use for the nuclear energy plant in Rio de Janeiro (Angra III). In 2009, Brazilian Nuclear Industries and Galvani (Brazilian enterprise) created the Consortium Santa Quitéria for the investment of the project called Mina de Itataia; Yara (Norway) joined the group. This mine is the largest reserve of uranium in the country and its economic viability depends on the associated phosphate exploration. This means that the uranium extraction is subject to the production of phosphoric acid-raw material used in the production of fertilizers (agroindustry).  By the end of 2008, rural communities with support of the University of Ceará, agrarian and environmental justice organization such as Vía Campesina, the Brazilian Network of Environmental Justice, others local EJOs, and a religious group start a platform for opposing to the mine, the main causes were the high level of health risk, the high level of water use (according with other similar mines is around 1.150.000 liters per hour) in a water scarce zone. In 2011, the accident in Fukushima strengthened the Santa Quitéria communities. The same year they created the Articulação Antinuclear do Ceará (Anti-nuclear network in Ceará) to debate around the possible risks, social and environmental impacts of the mine. This Network helped the mobilization of communities directly affected by the mine and is associated with the Articulação Antinuclear Brasileira (National Network against Nuclear Energy). As part of the Environmental License required, the IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) called for public audiences to explain the project and offer different types of benefits (work, development, roads, etc..).  However, the works have not even been initiated due to lack of environmental license.

Several master thesis coming from the University of Ceará  have analysed the potential environmental risks and rights of the project based on the environmental impact assessments produced by INB and Galvani. According to the activists, these analysis were sent to IBAMA, public prosecutor offices, and  to a human rights office in Ceará.  

In September 2016, according to the activists, IBAMA has issued a technical advice against the project. The document would indicate issues like the hydric non-feasbility, lack of mitigation measures in case of  radioactive contamination by nearby communities, and  lack of government agencies' green light for the project. This technical advice, however, has been held at the IBAMA's executive board ever since. The environmental agency has not officially spoken about the issue yet.

Because of these last events, social movements, NGOs, scientific networks and others jointly organized a campaign in March 2017 entitled "Anti-nuclear Ceará: in defense of life, water, and towards environmental justice". Coordinated by the anti-nuclear network in Ceará, a open letter was written to IBAMA asking the environmental agency to overrule the environmental license process and calling for national and international support on this quest. The letter summarizes the project's potential risks and impacts, denoucing some irregularities, also.

"Four concentraded uranium loadings per year are planned to happen, via highway networks, to Mucuripe Port (Fortaleza). However,  in the environmental impact assessment and envirommental impact report (EIA-RIMA, from the acronym in Portuguese) there isn't a safety transportation plan and the capital city of Fortaleza is not included in the report". 

The denounce continues pointing that "Fortaleza inhabitants and the overall populations living along the roads through with the radioactive loadings are going to be transported remain not aware about the project existence and have not been included in the project's discussions regarding the risks and impacts they are potentially facing in the future".

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Itataia Project for Uranium and Phosphate mining in Santa Quitéria, Ceará, Brazil
State or province:Ceará
Location of conflict:Santa Quitéria
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Mineral ore exploration
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Phosphates

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

The mineral deposit of Santa Quiteria has geological reserves of 142,500 tons of uranium associated with phosphate. The mineable reserve is 79.5 million tons.

Phosphate rock 800,000 tons per year

Fertilizers 810,000 tons per year

Bicalcic phosphate (animal feed) 240,000 tons per year

Uranium 1600 tons per year

It will bring between 1000-3000 work posts (direct and indirect).

Level of Investment:380,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:170 000 -190 000
Start of the conflict:2006
Company names or state enterprises:Galvani from Brazil - concessionare
Consórcio Santa Quitéria - owner
Yara Brazil Fertilizantes S.A from Norway
Relevant government actors:Federal Government of Ceará (FGC), Brazilian Nuclear Industries (INB), Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA), Secretaria Meio Ambiente Estado do Ceará (SEMACE), Ministerio de Minas e Energia (MME), National Commission of Nuclear Energy (CNEC)
International and Finance InstitutionsBanco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) from Brazil
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Vía Campesina, Brazil Network of Environmental Justice (Rede Justiça Ambiental), Cáritas Brazil, Cactus Organization, Instituto Bioma, Movimento Sem Terra (MST),Articulação Antinuclear do Ceará (AACE), Articulação Antinuclear Brasileira (AAB), Coletivo Urucum (CU), Brazil Fund of Human Rights (FBDH), Cáritas Diocesana de Sobral do Ceará (CDSC), Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) ,

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns

Impacts of the project

Other Environmental impactsWater sovereignty


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Development of alternatives:-Renewal energies such as Solar plants
-Familiar agriculture
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The project remains stopped. And there is a strengthening of participation and national networking, such as Articulação Antinuclear do Ceará (born under the struggle for this project). As well, the increasing knowledge in the rural communities about nuclear energy and its possible risks.

Sources and Materials

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

‘No Ceará – A peleja da vida contra o urânio’

Licenciar e silenciar: análise do conflito ambiental nas audiências públicas do projeto Santa Quitéria, CE

Vigilância popular da saúde : cartografia dos riscos e vulnerabilidades socioambientais no contexto de implantação da mineração de urânio e fosfato no Ceará

Riscos e injustiça hídrica no semiárido: contribuição à avaliação de equidade ambiental do projeto de mineração de urânio e fosfato em Santa Quitéria, Ceará

Riscos ambientais, processos de vulnerabilização e controvérsias em torno do projeto de mineração de urânio e fosfato em Santa Quitéria, Ceará

As expressões da questão da saúde em contexto de conflito ambiental: vozes de um território ameaçado pela possível implantação da mineração de urânio e fosfato no Sertão Central do Ceará

The itatiaia mine in Santa Quitéria city- CE: the uranium and the risks of exploration

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Itatira debate impactos da Mina de Itataia na zona rural

Consórcio Santa Quitéria esclarece população durante audiências públicas promovidas pelo Ibama

Exploração da Mina de Itataia ficará para 2020

Mapa Fiocruz

Santa Quitéria: audiência pública sobre projeto de mineração de urânio e fosfato na mina de Itataia

Industrias Nucleares do Brasil

Jazida de Itataia, uma bomba-relógio no coração do Ceará

Santa Quitéria Consortium official page

Movimentos alertam sobre o risco da mineração de urânio e fosfato no CE

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Impactos da exploração de urânio no Brasil - Parte 1

Other documents

Anti nuclear network

Campaign against Santa Quitéria Project

RIMA - RELATÓRIO DE IMPACTO AMBIENTAL PROJETO SANTA QUITÉRIA - CE FEVEREIRO/ 2014 Environmental impact report produced by Santa Quitéria Consortium (Feb./2014) and submitted to IBAMA.

CAMPANHA CEARÁ ANTINUCLEAR: EM DEFESA DA VIDA, DA ÁGUA E POR JUSTIÇA AMBIENTAL Open letter produced by the Anti-nuclear Ceará campaign in defense of life, water and towards environmental justice. It was sent to IBAMA claiming to overrule the project's environmental license process.ês.pdf

Other comments:Voc ENVJustice Mov
Reforma agraria sim, uranio não!
“A defesa da vida e a resistência antinuclear no Brasil”

Meta information

Contributor:ENVJustice (GN)
Last update13/04/2018



Anti nuclear network



Campaign against Santa Quitéria Project