Moderator: Evelyn Zadjenwerg with Paulo Rodriguez and Matheus Mendonca Social Activists in Brazil, Associacao Ayruma, Brazil
THE THREATS OF MINING COMPANIES IN BRAZILIAN TERRITORIES
Live will talk about the accelerated expansion of mining in the state of Minas Gerais (southeastern Brazil). This state is the size of Spain and has been suffering from uninterrupted iron ore extraction for almost a century. The destroyed areas range from territories with great biological and aquifer relevance to traditional Brazilian communities (quilombolas and indigenous tribes). They are part of a mosaic of protected areas with several conservation units, a management model for protected areas that seeks the participation, integration, and involvement of unit managers and the local population in their management.
Several municipalities are threatened by new mining projects in an unprecedented wave of new iron ore developments. The municipality of Serro is one such example, and the threat comes from the Herculano mining company (the same project that was rejected in 2015, previously submitted by another mining company – Anglo American). This region is part of the splendid Cordillera do Espinhaço (the central mountain range of Brazil). And that, among other things, was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on June 24, 2005, through the Man and the Biosphere (MaB) Programme – Meeting of the Bureau of the International Coordinating Council.
Many other municipalities in Minas Gerais have also been coveted by mining companies, such as Belo Horizonte (state capital), Nova Lima, Brumadinho, Santa Bárbara, Rio Acima, Raposos, Moeda, and many others. A good number of these municipalities are part of the third-largest metropolitan region in Brazil. All of them are notable for their iron ore deposits, 90% of which are exported to the hegemonic countries. During and after the extraction of the ore, primary water, environmental and social impacts occur. The consequences include the irreversible destruction of aquifers that sustain waterfalls, springs, rivers, and lagoons of great environmental importance and rarity. Furthermore, the quality of the rivers is degraded. At the end of the extraction period, gigantic tailings dams are left behind, two of which have already broken, burying hundreds of people alive, with damage to the lives of thousands of people who depended on the destroyed rivers. The social impacts are also enormous because the mining activity destabilizes the local economy, generating a poverty belt around it.
In all the environmental licensing processes underway related to mining, there are irregularities and illegalities. In the case of the municipality of Serro, notable for its scenic beauty and internationally awarded artisanal cheeses, the local public authorities are complicit with the economic interests and are using every subterfuge to authorize the undertakings without complying with the mandatory procedures when providing for the participation of the population. If the first iron mine is licensed in Serro, many others will follow in the same trail of destruction, as is historically known in the state of Minas Gerais.
Our resistance strategy is international visibility.
We need to unite and say NO to this crime that is nothing more than the result of limitless international greed.
Paolo is a geologist who is currently 60 years old. He holds a PhD degree in Germany (1991), scientific researcher and professor of a postgraduate program in a research center of the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology in the city of Belo Horizonte (state of Minas Gerais – southwest of Brazil), and member of several hydro-environmental defense groups. Involved in geospatial analysis for generation of specialized technical maps in hydrogeology.
Matheus Mendonca holds a Doctorate in Law Theory and Master in Public Law from PUC – Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, where he is a professor in the Law course and coordinates an extension project: The Fight for the Fundamental Rights of Quilombo Communities. He is also a lawyer for the Federation of Quilombola Communities of the State of Minas Gerais – N’Golo and is acting for the federation as a lawyer in the SERRO case.
Evelyn Post-graduated in Art Therapy at FASE (Paraná’s Vicentina University), Post-graduated in “Teaching and Research in the field of Art and Culture” at Guignard – UEMG ; Graduated in Artistic Education (major in Plastic Arts) at Guignard UEMG and works in socio-environmental and cultural projects. She has several books of her own besides working as an illustrator and audio-visual production.