S11D is the largest mining project in Vale's history and the largest in the history of iron ore mining in the world. Vale has been investing heavily in this project (6,4 billion dollars for the mine and about 8 billion dollars in the Railroad and Port) to intensify the extraction and export of high quality iron ore. The estimated production capacity of S11D is 90 Mtpa with a high iron content of 66.7% . This production capacity corresponds to approximately one fifth of the total Brazilian iron ore extraction. To enable the massive export of this expanded production, the project also counted on the duplication of the Carajás Railroad – which is 892 km long and passes through 27 municipalities in Pará and Maranhão – and the expansion of the Ponta da Madeira terminal in São Luís (MA) . The operation of S11D initiated at the end of 2016 .
Vale presents the S11D as an environmentally friendly project based on the facts that the mine does not occupy a significant area of the Carajás National Forest and that it uses technological advances that save water, fuel, etc. . However, the environmental licensing process of S11D shows a different reality than the story told in Vale's reports. Legal obstacles were removed so that Vale could mine these large deposits of Carajás. The Decree 6,640 of 2008 relaxed the legislation applied to underground natural cavities, which otherwise would have to be preserved, preventing large-scale mining in the Southeastern Carajás Mountains, where S11D is located [15, 3]. Also, despite being in a Conservation Unit, governed by the Federal Law 9,985/2000, the project put at risk the ecosystem of canga (a type of savannah) of high ecological importance – and already threatened by iron mining [16,3].
More serious, given the great and irreversible environmental destruction that would be generated by S11D, Vale negotiated with the environmental authorities to compensate the damages in a savanna area in Serra da Bocaina, outside the limits of Carajás National Forest, in a region of great complexity of land ownership. The problems resulting from this situation were exposed in a letter sent to ICMBio by organizations and social movements in 2016 . About 5,000 hectares of Vale's intended areas were federal public lands occupied by posseiros or claimed by landless families to create settlements. Another 1,000 hectares of the Carajás II Settlement were purchased by Vale without INCRA's consent, as well as other areas titled by Terra Legal program, which could be in an irregular situation. By acquiring these areas (including some public areas) in order to comply with the compensation, Vale ignored claims by dozens of landless families and left future legal problems for ICMBio. In spite of such problems, the Parque Nacional dos Campos Ferruginosos was created in July 2017 . There were also violent expropriations. In the Grotto Mutum Settlement, about 120 families were dispossessed and their plantations were destroyed on February 3, 2016. And at the São Luís farm, there was a firefight with the arrival of the police [4, 5, 6]. After that, in February 2016, about 600 families from seven camps of landless rural workers occupied the access road to the S11D Project area.
In addition, the S11D iron ore processing infrastructure was also built outside the Carajás National Forest, directly impacting more than 90 families in the Racha Placa rural community. As of 2008, residents were contacted by a company called Diagonal Urbano. From then on, they had a series of problems with the payment of indemnities. In June 2014, residents of the community paralyzed the construction of the S11D to pressure Vale to comply with the deal agreed with the former company [8, 9].
Finally, though the project was only viable with the whole new transport and infrastructure logistic, the environmental license was fragmented in many parts so that the cumulative impacts of the whole project were not considered. This was criticized by many ONGs and environmentalists [10, 11, 13]. This also meant that with the approval of S11D, the other licenses (railroad and port) were only a formal matter – there was no real possibility of rejection. This is because, due to the increase in production capacity of 90 million tons per year, it was necessary to transport all this ore. Therefore, the duplication of the Carajás Railroad was urgent to Vale.
The Carajás Railroad passes through 27 municipalities, 28 Conservation Units and crosses more than 100 quilombolas and indigenous communities in Pará and Maranhão. The duplication of the railroad increased the impacts and accidents already experienced at these places – such as noise pollution, house structures concussion, difficulty in crossing the railway, trampling caused by trains and deaths. Given this scenario, the number of protests on the rails has grown significantly from 2012, when the construction began. In 2012, there were 3 demonstrations along the railroad; in 2014, 14 demonstrations and in 2015, 26 [13, 14]. One of the main demands is greater safety for the crossing of railways, such as overpasses and walkways. Between 2010 and 2017, there were 39 mortal trampling along the railroad. The years 2015 and 2017 recorded the highest numbers of deaths, seven in each year. However, Vale's main response has been to criminally prosecute those who manifest on the train tracks. In these five years of duplication, more than 170 people have already been prosecuted by Vale in Pará and Maranhão courts for interdicting the railroad [11, 18].