Piquiá de Baixo: Emergency Note and Recommendations

Piquiá de Baixo: the ideology of economic growth and profit at any price generates a sequence of calamities and the need for urgent measures

On March 16, the community of Piquiá de Baixo (Açailândia, Maranhão, Brazil) was flooded and remained underwater for a few days.

Due to the heavy rains, the dams of several fish raising reservoirs of farms upstream of the Piquiá River broke down, causing a violent flood, which invaded the houses of the community, displaced 253 people and destroyed at least 25 houses. Besides the houses, residents lost many of their belongings.

Currently, 17 families remain homeless. The local community buildings (churches, Mothers’ Club, school) are serving as a support point for people to take shelter and keep the belongings they managed to remove.

Highway 222, which joins the south of Maranhão to the capital São Luís and other cities in the northeast, was hit by the force of the waters, which opened a wide gullet on the asphalt, needing several days to guarantee circulation throughout the state. Railway bridges that pass over the community may have their structure compromised.

This is yet another tragedy that has come to affect a community that has been severely hit by nearly 35 years of negative impacts and rights violations caused by pollution resulting from Vale SA’s mining operations and the production of pig iron, steel, cement and thermoelectric energy by companies steelmakers that settled in Piquiá, in the context of the Grand Carajás Program. Co-responsible for these violations are public institutions and local government, due to their complicity, omission and neglect, lack of inspection and respect for environmental laws, lack of support and effective measures regarding the complaints, proposals and remedial actions demanded by the community and its organizations.

Thus, in March 2020, residents are surrounded by water, affected by pollution, impaired in their respiratory conditions and, still, threatened by the imminent arrival of the Coronavirus.

The current selfless and supportive action of residents of the community, with the admirable support of some institutions and citizens of Açailândia, was fundamental to meet the basic emergency needs of the affected families.

The resettlement of Piquiá is one of the actions required by the community as part of a larger plan for comprehensive reparation for the damages suffered, and prevention of new tragedies. The construction of the new neighborhood, Piquiá da Conquista, began in November 2018 and progresses successfully, under a self-management regime, under the guidance of the residents themselves, through their community association and technical assistance.

However, despite popular mobilization, denunciations by national and international organizations and entities, condemnatory sentences in indemnity actions, formal UN positions vis-à-vis the Brazilian State, on-site visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on toxic substances and waste and many other initiatives that gave the case a high profile and consistency, resettlement is in serious danger of being interrupted due to lack of financing.

The community of Piquiá de Baixo may be condemned to live in a permanent state of calamity, due to the dismantlement of the solutions that the community itself, courageously and insistently, has been presenting to public authorities and to companies and struggled for.

In this tragic context, we recommend with indignation, vigor and extreme urgency the following series of measures and resolutions:

Emergency flood assistance

  • shelter and security for homeless families: guarantee of social rent in housing chosen by the families themselves, with security criteria;
  • food security guarantee measures for all affected residents, by coordinating the actions of public authorities and the solidarity of Açailândia citizens;
  • subsidies for the renovation of damaged houses and for the repair or replacement of damaged furniture;
  • rapid recovery of Highway 222 highway and immediate guarantee of other access routes for residents of Piquiá de Baixo to the city of Açailândia, without additional costs to residents, even if the expropriation of private areas is necessary;
  • intensification of the work of the Municipal Health Secretariat in Piquiá de Baixo, monitoring of the residents’ physical and psychological health conditions and particular prevention from the perspective of possible viral epidemics;
  • inclusion of the Pequiá Residents Community Association (ACMP) in the Task Force established by the Municipality of Açailândia with Ordinance no. 403/2020, to guarantee the role of residents in the definition of emergency support actions for victims.

Preventing new disasters

It is not the first time that the dams in the reservoirs for raising fish on farms upstream of the Piquiá River break down. Depending on the intensity of the rains, the rupture of one of them can cause chain damage in the downstream dams, pouring huge amounts of water into the lagoon next to the community of Piquiá de Baixo.

We require the Municipal Secretary of Environment of Açailândia to inspect all the weirs in the region, their construction and maintenance licensing, as well as the responsibility of their owners in case of new damages.

Resettlement of Piquiá de Baixo (construction of Piquiá da Conquista)

The recommendations of the World Health Organization and Brazilian health authorities regarding measures to prevent contagion and to combat the spread of COVID-19 transmission are known worldwide.

On March 19, 2020, a state of public calamity was declared in the State of Maranhão (State Decree No. 35,672) due to the increase in the number of infections by the H1N1 virus, the existence of suspected cases of contamination by COVID-19, as well as the occurrence of intense rains in certain municipalities in the State, Açailândia included.

On March 21, 2020, the Maranhão State Government issued Decree no. 35,677 / 2020, which prohibits the performance of non-essential activities and services, in order to avoid the crowding of people.

Although the government regulations do not expressly refer to civil construction works in the State of Maranhão and despite the need for families to have a new home in the shortest possible time, the Community Association of Residents of Pequiá (ACMP), together with its technical advisory, USINA (Work Center for the Inhabited Environment), entities responsible for the construction of Piquiá da Conquista, found themselves under the obligation to choose to temporarily interrupt the works.

This measure aims at preserving the health of workers and reducing losses in view of the already announced interruption of transfers of funds by the Federal Government / Caixa Econômica Federal.

  • with the cost burden imposed by the new circumstances, the economic and financial rebalancing of the contract established between the Federal Union and ACMP must be guaranteed, with the addition to the budget of resources initially foreseen;
  • the Federal Government and Caixa Econômica Federal must guarantee punctuality and security in the transfer of all installments of the Social Development Fund established for the work;
  • Vale S.A. and Vale Foundation must guarantee punctuality and security in the transfer of the amounts already established in the contract;
  • steel companies, Vale S.A. company, the Federal, State and Municipal Governments must allocate additional funds to cover the budget deficit that has existed since the approval of the project and which tends to increase from now on;
  • considering the calamity situation in which the residents of Piquiá de Baixo find themselves, the monthly payments that are incumbent on the residents, according to the rules of the Minha Casa Minha Vida Program, must be canceled.

Emergency assistance for the Coronavirus threat

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared that humanity lives under a pandemic of the new Coronavirus. The number of cases has been multiplying every day in Brazil. To date, Brazil has 1,546 confirmed cases and 25 deaths. Of these, 02 are confirmed cases of people affected by COVID-19 in the State of Maranhão, while 04 cases are monitored as suspects in the municipality of Açailândia. Unfortunately, the trend is for an exponential increase in the number of cases in the coming weeks across the country.

Most of the residents of Piquiá de Baixo work in the informal sector and/or on their own and cannot work at home. For this reason, they depend on State support to be able to stay at home and ensure their food security, personal hygiene and survival.

In addition, the probable interruption of the construction works at Piquiá da Conquista will affect the income of several families in the community, since several construction workers are from the community itself.

Finally, it should be remembered that, due to the historical exposure to air pollution and the chronic respiratory diseases resulting from it, all residents of Piquiá de Baixo, regardless of age, are in the so-called risk groups, making the recovery more difficult in case of contamination with the new Coronavirus.

Thus, it is necessary that:

  • the public health care service for residents is maintained and intensified;
  • water supply, electricity supply and garbage collection services in the community be continuous, regardless of the regularity of payment by residents;
  • a basic income be adopted for each of the residents of Piquiá de Baixo following the recommendation of Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, special UN rapporteur on the effects of external debt on human rights.

Railway bridge security

The floods most likely also affected the structure of the railway bridges that pass over the community. These bridges are part of the Carajás Railway, under concession to Vale S.A., and are used for the transportation of iron ore, fuels and other goods.

Therefore, we recommend:

  • the carrying out of technical assessment by qualified and independent professionals in order to ascertain the situation of the bridge structures, the risks of collapse and the measures to restore security, if necessary;
  • the immediate suspension of freight train traffic until it is confirmed by a qualified and independent assessment that the aforementioned bridges are not at risk of collapsing and/or the works necessary for this purpose are completed.

Polluting and disease-causing activities in Piquiá

Pig iron, steel, cement and thermoelectric power production activities in Piquiá are known to cause illnesses and respiratory diseases to the population in the region.

The state of emergency and public health calamity in which the population as a whole finds itself, and in particular the community of Piquiá de Baixo, demand strict measures to guarantee the right to health of all.

This right cannot be allowed to be sacrificed for the economic interests and the thirst for profit of the companies. Nor, that the population be forced to endanger their health and their lives by the need to work, eat and survive.

We again strongly recommend the implementation of all the recommendations on the right to health and a healthy environment presented in the report of the International Federation of Human Rights in 2011, and still largely unfulfilled up to this date.

Solidarity and national and international support

We call on partner entities and individuals in general to:

  • disseminate this support note on Piquiá de Baixo;
  • participate in fundraising campaigns for emergency food and possible repair of houses that have been damaged and for the resettlement of the community;
  • send communications to federal, state and municipal authorities to meet the demands of the community without delay, including families that are not included in the resettlement;
  • send messages of solidarity and support to the Pequiá Residents Community Association (ACMP);
  • make known the firm and dignified struggle of this community, through the websites piquiadebaixo.com.br and justicanostrilhos.org .

This fight is ours; this fight belongs to the people! It is with justice and rights that a new world is made!

Piquiá, March 23, 2020.

Pequiá Residents Community Association (ACMP)

Justiça nos Trilhos

USINA – CTAH

Piquiá Santa Luzia Parish

Comboni Missionaries

Churches and Mining Network

History and purpose of the Campaign

 Justice on the Rails!

People’s life and the Vale Company along the Carajás Railway

Proposing an action to claim justice and respect to the environment

www.justicanostrilhos.org

1. History/Context

The region in Brazil known as “Carajás” is a mineralogical province located in the Western Amazon. It was discovered by multinationals companies at the time of the dictatorship military and contains the world’s largest reserve of iron ore of a high content, considerable reserves of manganese, copper, bauxite, nickel, tin, and others minerals resources beside a vast possibility of forest exploitation, farming, cattle-breeding and an enormous hydro-electrical power. 

The searching for iron ore in the Serra dos Carajás, which is located in the East of Pará state, began in the 60’s and was increased in the following decade when the State mining Company Vale do Rio Doce (Vale) took upon itself the total control of mineral resources in the region and created in 1979 the Programa Grande Carajás (Great Carajás Program) aiming to produce minerals on an industrial scale to supply the international market.  

In order to consolidate this very big project it was necessary to develop infra-structure works of great impact, as for example the Tucuruí Power Plant, which is located in the Southeast of Pará state, the Madeira Port in São Luis in the Maranhão state (this is the busiest loading port in the North-Northeast), and the Carajás Railway, amongst others.

The Carajás Railway

The Carajás Railway was inaugurated in 28 February 1985. It has 557.5 miles of extension (892 km) and crosses 25 small towns (4 in the Pará state and 21 in the Maranhão state) linking up the mineralogical province of Carajás, in Pará, with the Port of Ponta da Madeira, in São Luis. It is directly operated by the Vale do Rio Doce Company (Vale) through a concession made by the Brazilian State in 1976 and later renewed, in 1997, for another 30 years, just after the Company was privatised.

With excellent technical conditions, the Carajás Railway is amongst those with the best indices of productivity in the world, which makes it a fundamental railway for the growing high profit obtained by the mining Vale Company.

Besides the iron ore and manganese, the Carajás Railway transports yearly tons of others minerals together with products such as wood, cement, drinks, vehicles, fertilizers, petrol, products of siderurgy and of agriculture, particularly the Soya that is produced in the South of Maranhão, Piauí, Pará and Mato Grosso states.

Such a big enterprise has redesigned a very important part of the Amazon landscape, has favoured new economic activities (for example, the siderurgy), besides provoking a turnover in the life of the local population, especially in the life of the indigenous people.

Despite not being one of its priorities and to comply with its obligations imposed by the concession agreement, the Vale Company transports also passenger through the Carajás Railway. However, what would appear to be a benefit for the local population, has actually generated many problems due to the big amount of people who often take the train in Maranhão state and move down searching for work opportunities in the Southeast of Pará state. Since they have no qualification to carry on any specialized task, they are, therefore, fated to fail. Besides this, delays and the occurrence of accidents and run downs are quite common along the railway.  

The situation gets worse when it is considered that the Carajás Railway is in plain process of becoming a dual railway all along of its extension aiming to reach 100 millions tons/year in 2010. This has led to the enlargement of railway courtyards, diversion and terminals for the composition of trains with three engines and 312 railway wagons. All this tends to generate impacts even bigger on the environment and on the life conditions of the people who live along the railway. 

Present Context

The great mineralogical pole of Carajás is currently the world’s largest mineral and metallurgical complex. Along the Carajás Railway there are 14 siderurgies concentrated in a ray of 15 miles (150 km). They are mainly installed in the regions of Marabá, in Pará state, and in Açailândia, in Maranhão state. The iron ore is exported (100% in the particular case of various siderurgies) to the American, European, Chinese, and Japanese markets. 

Each siderurgy may consume over 300 tons of charcoal a day. This contributes enormously to the deforestation of the region: at present the native forest areas in the region are almost inexistent.  

This economic model is destructive, because it employs very few people in comparison with other possible ways of utilizing the land, it concentrates money and power in the hands of few investors of the region, it does not allow any kind of debate regarding possible alternatives, and affects people’s health through the emission of extreme pollution. 

It is worth mentioning that the Vale is currently the leading company in fine notification by the Brazilian Institute for the Environment (IBAMA). This organ is responsible for the environmental protection at a national level. Since its privatization, the Vale Company got 56 notifications of environmental infractions. That corresponds to the amount of R$ 37 millions (in Real, the Brazilian currency) in fines. This kind of notification normally results from the non-accomplishment of the conditions imposed at the moment of issuing the environmental license.  

In alternative to this multinational giant, small alternative experiences are being developed at a grassroots level: courses and initiatives on agri-ecology which is linked to the familiar production in the settlements, experiences of local commercialisation in rural-urban areas, recycling projects, and small alternatives productions within the towns. There would have a wide range of opportunity to promote micro-credit.

Although there has been a modern infra-structure that favours new industrial activities, there has prevailed in the region the concentration of income, of lands, and has also advanced the process of social exclusion, if taken into consideration the low economic return to the country and fundamentally to the local populations. Under a false image of a developing progress, there operates the plundering of resources on behalf of private and foreigner interests keeping the eagerness of the hegemonic nations governed by the law of market in detriment of the destruction of the State and of the annihilation of the Brazilian people.   
 

The emblematic case of Açailândia

Açailândia is a strategic town for the Vale Company for it is in Açailândia, in the interior of Maranhão state, that the Carajás Railway is connected with the North-South Railway. The enlargement of this last one, which intends to link the city of Goiânia, in the state of Goiás, to the city of Belém, in the sate of Pará, is a big infrastructure project in Brazil to which priority has been given for it construction is for the benefit of the agribusiness. 

Also in this town the Belém-Brasília Motorway (BR-010) meets up with the 222 Motorway (BR-222), which goes from Fortaleza, in the state of Ceará, down to Marabá, in the state of Pará.

The population of Açailândia has been in its great majority victim of various forms of environmental degradation. Açailândia has become an emblematic case amongst all the towns through which passes the Carajás Railway for it condenses in only one area different kinds of situations which compromise the wellbeing of the population (mining, deforestation, eucalypt monoculture, pollution caused by the siderurgy and charcoal-factories, slaved work, malnutrition, and children sexual exploitation). We are dealing with an expressive context of an entire region (Carajás) whereby the problems are very similar and people’s power is quite disproportional to that of the local acting big business companies.   

2. The Campaign

The “Justice on the Rails” Campaign began in the end of 2007 through the initiative of the Comboni Missionaries (a Catholic Church Religious Congregation), who have been working in diverse regions of Maranhão state, and rapidly was joined by others groups and social organisations which now compose both its executive coordination and networked actions.

We have taken as priorities the defence of the environment and of the Amazon threatened local populations, especially those people living along the Carajás Railway. The Campaign intends also to draw attention to the damages caused to the local indigenous people and to the labourers who are victims of exploitation.

The Campaign is being carried out involving strategically three segments of society: the popular movements and the basis of the population, universities, and the local public institutions.

We intend to take the opportunity of the World Social Forum (to be held in Belém, January 2009). The occasion of the WSF may offer a bigger visibility to the grave situation of the region and to give a contribution for the establishment of ample alliances at local and international levels; this experience of pressure on the Vale Company in the Carajás setting may also become a model for others regions.

The objectives of our action are mainly the following ones:

a) To evaluate the real impacts of the activities carried out by the mining Company Vale do Rio Doce (Vale) along the so called influence area of the Carajás Railway;

b) To propose a debate on the construction of mechanisms that makes possible the application of resources of the Vale in a way that the sustainable development of the local communities may be stimulated.

It is worth mentioning that up to the moment of its privatization the Vale Company had the obligation to contribute towards a Developing Found which was in force while the Company belonged to the State. The Vale was obliged to repay 8% of its invoicing to this Found to be invested on behalf of the populations that were directly affected.

The obligation to contribute with this Found, however, was ceased with the privatisation of the Company. Since then, through a Foundation, the Vale has adopted a policy of “social improvements” by developing small local projects with the application of funds absolutely disproportionate to the annual high profits of the Company and without any obligatory and permanent commitment with the local population.

There glimpses the possibility for the local populations and public administrations to demand compensations and royalties according to the effects of the social and environmental impacts caused by the cycle of mining activities. This process, which may lead to a Term of Adjustment of Conduct, could result in the creation of a Developing Found, which would be supported by both the State and the Vale Company and equally administrated by the civil society for environmental and social investments (in the area of agri-ecology, reforestation of native species, subsidies for the familiar agriculture and cooperatives, for the recovery of rivers and streams, etc.). 

The Campaign is being worked through the year 2008 in diverse directions:

– Study and research (data-collecting on environmental impact caused by the Carajás Railway, documentation of the damages caused on the people and the soil, environmental laws and partnerships of the Vale Company with the cities crossed by the Carajás Railway, comparison of the social and economic situation in the region of the Carajás with other similar in Brazil and abroad, analysis of the economic and countable data of the Vale, etc.)

– Consciousness and mobilization of the people (realisation of seminars, production of material of propaganda, small TV documentaries, booklets, page on the internet, formations meetings, etc.)

– Strengthening of the network for action that involves interested groups and movement both at national and international levels

A coordination team composed by representatives of social organizations, lawyers, judges and others professionals, Professors and university researchers have already taken the first steps of this work. Join this struggle for justice and for an equal share of the earth goods for the life of the people and the environment along the Carajás Railway!

The Coordination of the “Justice on the Rail” Campaign.

 Contacts:

www.justicanostrilhos.org

justicanostrilhos@gmail.com

0xx99-3538.1787

0xx99-8112.8913

History and purpose of the Campaign

 Justice on the Rails!

People’s life and the Vale Company along the Carajás Railway

Proposing an action to claim justice and respect to the environment

www.justicanostrilhos.org

1. History/Context

The region in Brazil known as “Carajás” is a mineralogical province located in the Western Amazon. It was discovered by multinationals companies at the time of the dictatorship military and contains the world’s largest reserve of iron ore of a high content, considerable reserves of manganese, copper, bauxite, nickel, tin, and others minerals resources beside a vast possibility of forest exploitation, farming, cattle-breeding and an enormous hydro-electrical power. 

The searching for iron ore in the Serra dos Carajás, which is located in the East of Pará state, began in the 60’s and was increased in the following decade when the State mining Company Vale do Rio Doce (Vale) took upon itself the total control of mineral resources in the region and created in 1979 the Programa Grande Carajás (Great Carajás Program) aiming to produce minerals on an industrial scale to supply the international market.  

In order to consolidate this very big project it was necessary to develop infra-structure works of great impact, as for example the Tucuruí Power Plant, which is located in the Southeast of Pará state, the Madeira Port in São Luis in the Maranhão state (this is the busiest loading port in the North-Northeast), and the Carajás Railway, amongst others.

The Carajás Railway

The Carajás Railway was inaugurated in 28 February 1985. It has 557.5 miles of extension (892 km) and crosses 25 small towns (4 in the Pará state and 21 in the Maranhão state) linking up the mineralogical province of Carajás, in Pará, with the Port of Ponta da Madeira, in São Luis. It is directly operated by the Vale do Rio Doce Company (Vale) through a concession made by the Brazilian State in 1976 and later renewed, in 1997, for another 30 years, just after the Company was privatised.

With excellent technical conditions, the Carajás Railway is amongst those with the best indices of productivity in the world, which makes it a fundamental railway for the growing high profit obtained by the mining Vale Company.

Besides the iron ore and manganese, the Carajás Railway transports yearly tons of others minerals together with products such as wood, cement, drinks, vehicles, fertilizers, petrol, products of siderurgy and of agriculture, particularly the Soya that is produced in the South of Maranhão, Piauí, Pará and Mato Grosso states.

Such a big enterprise has redesigned a very important part of the Amazon landscape, has favoured new economic activities (for example, the siderurgy), besides provoking a turnover in the life of the local population, especially in the life of the indigenous people.

Despite not being one of its priorities and to comply with its obligations imposed by the concession agreement, the Vale Company transports also passenger through the Carajás Railway. However, what would appear to be a benefit for the local population, has actually generated many problems due to the big amount of people who often take the train in Maranhão state and move down searching for work opportunities in the Southeast of Pará state. Since they have no qualification to carry on any specialized task, they are, therefore, fated to fail. Besides this, delays and the occurrence of accidents and run downs are quite common along the railway.  

The situation gets worse when it is considered that the Carajás Railway is in plain process of becoming a dual railway all along of its extension aiming to reach 100 millions tons/year in 2010. This has led to the enlargement of railway courtyards, diversion and terminals for the composition of trains with three engines and 312 railway wagons. All this tends to generate impacts even bigger on the environment and on the life conditions of the people who live along the railway. 

Present Context

The great mineralogical pole of Carajás is currently the world’s largest mineral and metallurgical complex. Along the Carajás Railway there are 14 siderurgies concentrated in a ray of 15 miles (150 km). They are mainly installed in the regions of Marabá, in Pará state, and in Açailândia, in Maranhão state. The iron ore is exported (100% in the particular case of various siderurgies) to the American, European, Chinese, and Japanese markets. 

Each siderurgy may consume over 300 tons of charcoal a day. This contributes enormously to the deforestation of the region: at present the native forest areas in the region are almost inexistent.  

This economic model is destructive, because it employs very few people in comparison with other possible ways of utilizing the land, it concentrates money and power in the hands of few investors of the region, it does not allow any kind of debate regarding possible alternatives, and affects people’s health through the emission of extreme pollution. 

It is worth mentioning that the Vale is currently the leading company in fine notification by the Brazilian Institute for the Environment (IBAMA). This organ is responsible for the environmental protection at a national level. Since its privatization, the Vale Company got 56 notifications of environmental infractions. That corresponds to the amount of R$ 37 millions (in Real, the Brazilian currency) in fines. This kind of notification normally results from the non-accomplishment of the conditions imposed at the moment of issuing the environmental license.  

In alternative to this multinational giant, small alternative experiences are being developed at a grassroots level: courses and initiatives on agri-ecology which is linked to the familiar production in the settlements, experiences of local commercialisation in rural-urban areas, recycling projects, and small alternatives productions within the towns. There would have a wide range of opportunity to promote micro-credit.

Although there has been a modern infra-structure that favours new industrial activities, there has prevailed in the region the concentration of income, of lands, and has also advanced the process of social exclusion, if taken into consideration the low economic return to the country and fundamentally to the local populations. Under a false image of a developing progress, there operates the plundering of resources on behalf of private and foreigner interests keeping the eagerness of the hegemonic nations governed by the law of market in detriment of the destruction of the State and of the annihilation of the Brazilian people.   
 

The emblematic case of Açailândia

Açailândia is a strategic town for the Vale Company for it is in Açailândia, in the interior of Maranhão state, that the Carajás Railway is connected with the North-South Railway. The enlargement of this last one, which intends to link the city of Goiânia, in the state of Goiás, to the city of Belém, in the sate of Pará, is a big infrastructure project in Brazil to which priority has been given for it construction is for the benefit of the agribusiness. 

Also in this town the Belém-Brasília Motorway (BR-010) meets up with the 222 Motorway (BR-222), which goes from Fortaleza, in the state of Ceará, down to Marabá, in the state of Pará.

The population of Açailândia has been in its great majority victim of various forms of environmental degradation. Açailândia has become an emblematic case amongst all the towns through which passes the Carajás Railway for it condenses in only one area different kinds of situations which compromise the wellbeing of the population (mining, deforestation, eucalypt monoculture, pollution caused by the siderurgy and charcoal-factories, slaved work, malnutrition, and children sexual exploitation). We are dealing with an expressive context of an entire region (Carajás) whereby the problems are very similar and people’s power is quite disproportional to that of the local acting big business companies.   

2. The Campaign

The “Justice on the Rails” Campaign began in the end of 2007 through the initiative of the Comboni Missionaries (a Catholic Church Religious Congregation), who have been working in diverse regions of Maranhão state, and rapidly was joined by others groups and social organisations which now compose both its executive coordination and networked actions.

We have taken as priorities the defence of the environment and of the Amazon threatened local populations, especially those people living along the Carajás Railway. The Campaign intends also to draw attention to the damages caused to the local indigenous people and to the labourers who are victims of exploitation.

The Campaign is being carried out involving strategically three segments of society: the popular movements and the basis of the population, universities, and the local public institutions.

We intend to take the opportunity of the World Social Forum (to be held in Belém, January 2009). The occasion of the WSF may offer a bigger visibility to the grave situation of the region and to give a contribution for the establishment of ample alliances at local and international levels; this experience of pressure on the Vale Company in the Carajás setting may also become a model for others regions.

The objectives of our action are mainly the following ones:

a) To evaluate the real impacts of the activities carried out by the mining Company Vale do Rio Doce (Vale) along the so called influence area of the Carajás Railway;

b) To propose a debate on the construction of mechanisms that makes possible the application of resources of the Vale in a way that the sustainable development of the local communities may be stimulated.

It is worth mentioning that up to the moment of its privatization the Vale Company had the obligation to contribute towards a Developing Found which was in force while the Company belonged to the State. The Vale was obliged to repay 8% of its invoicing to this Found to be invested on behalf of the populations that were directly affected.

The obligation to contribute with this Found, however, was ceased with the privatisation of the Company. Since then, through a Foundation, the Vale has adopted a policy of “social improvements” by developing small local projects with the application of funds absolutely disproportionate to the annual high profits of the Company and without any obligatory and permanent commitment with the local population.

There glimpses the possibility for the local populations and public administrations to demand compensations and royalties according to the effects of the social and environmental impacts caused by the cycle of mining activities. This process, which may lead to a Term of Adjustment of Conduct, could result in the creation of a Developing Found, which would be supported by both the State and the Vale Company and equally administrated by the civil society for environmental and social investments (in the area of agri-ecology, reforestation of native species, subsidies for the familiar agriculture and cooperatives, for the recovery of rivers and streams, etc.). 

The Campaign is being worked through the year 2008 in diverse directions:

– Study and research (data-collecting on environmental impact caused by the Carajás Railway, documentation of the damages caused on the people and the soil, environmental laws and partnerships of the Vale Company with the cities crossed by the Carajás Railway, comparison of the social and economic situation in the region of the Carajás with other similar in Brazil and abroad, analysis of the economic and countable data of the Vale, etc.)

– Consciousness and mobilization of the people (realisation of seminars, production of material of propaganda, small TV documentaries, booklets, page on the internet, formations meetings, etc.)

– Strengthening of the network for action that involves interested groups and movement both at national and international levels

A coordination team composed by representatives of social organizations, lawyers, judges and others professionals, Professors and university researchers have already taken the first steps of this work. Join this struggle for justice and for an equal share of the earth goods for the life of the people and the environment along the Carajás Railway!

The Coordination of the “Justice on the Rail” Campaign.

 Contacts:

www.justicanostrilhos.org

justicanostrilhos@gmail.com

0xx99-3538.1787

0xx99-8112.8913

Articles and Denunciations | Justiça nos Trilhos

Justice on the Rails!
People’s life and the Vale Company along the Carajás Railway  
Proposing an action to claim justice and respect to the environment

1. History/Context

The region in Brazil known as “Carajás” is a mineralogical province located in the Western Amazon. It was discovered by multinationals companies at the time of the dictatorship military and contains the world’s largest reserve of iron ore of a high content, considerable reserves of manganese, copper, bauxite, nickel, tin, and others minerals resources beside a vast possibility of forest exploitation, farming, cattle-breeding and an enormous hydro-electrical power.

The searching for iron ore in the Serra dos Carajás, which is located in the East of Pará state, began in the 60’s and was increased in the following decade when the State mining Company Vale do Rio Doce (Vale) took upon itself the total control of mineral resources in the region and created in 1979 the Programa Grande Carajás (Great Carajás Program)aiming to produce minerals on an industrial scale to supply the international market.

In order to consolidate this very big project it was necessary to develop infra-structure works of great impact, as for example the Tucuruí Power Plant, which is located in the Southeast of Pará state, the Madeira Port in São Luis in the Maranhão state (this is the busiest loading port in the North-Northeast), and the Carajás Railway, amongst others.

History and purpose of the Campaign | Justiça nos Trilhos

 Justice on the Rails!

People’s life and the Vale Company along the Carajás Railway

Proposing an action to claim justice and respect to the environment

www.justicanostrilhos.org

1. History/Context

The region in Brazil known as “Carajás” is a mineralogical province located in the Western Amazon. It was discovered by multinationals companies at the time of the dictatorship military and contains the world’s largest reserve of iron ore of a high content, considerable reserves of manganese, copper, bauxite, nickel, tin, and others minerals resources beside a vast possibility of forest exploitation, farming, cattle-breeding and an enormous hydro-electrical power.  

The searching for iron ore in the Serra dos Carajás, which is located in the East of Pará state, began in the 60’s and was increased in the following decade when the State mining Company Vale do Rio Doce (Vale) took upon itself the total control of mineral resources in the region and created in 1979 the Programa Grande Carajás (Great Carajás Program) aiming to produce minerals on an industrial scale to supply the international market.  

In order to consolidate this very big project it was necessary to develop infra-structure works of great impact, as for example the Tucuruí Power Plant, which is located in the Southeast of Pará state, the Madeira Port in São Luis in the Maranhão state (this is the busiest loading port in the North-Northeast), and the Carajás Railway, amongst others.

The Carajás Railway

The Carajás Railway was inaugurated in 28 February 1985. It has 557.5 miles of extension (892 km) and crosses 25 small towns (4 in the Pará state and 21 in the Maranhão state) linking up the mineralogical province of Carajás, in Pará, with the Port of Ponta da Madeira, in São Luis. It is directly operated by the Vale do Rio Doce Company (Vale) through a concession made by the Brazilian State in 1976 and later renewed, in 1997, for another 30 years, just after the Company was privatised.

With excellent technical conditions, the Carajás Railway is amongst those with the best indices of productivity in the world, which makes it a fundamental railway for the growing high profit obtained by the mining Vale Company.

Besides the iron ore and manganese, the Carajás Railway transports yearly tons of others minerals together with products such as wood, cement, drinks, vehicles, fertilizers, petrol, products of siderurgy and of agriculture, particularly the Soya that is produced in the South of Maranhão, Piauí, Pará and Mato Grosso states.

Such a big enterprise has redesigned a very important part of the Amazon landscape, has favoured new economic activities (for example, the siderurgy), besides provoking a turnover in the life of the local population, especially in the life of the indigenous people.

Despite not being one of its priorities and to comply with its obligations imposed by the concession agreement, the Vale Company transports also passenger through the Carajás Railway. However, what would appear to be a benefit for the local population, has actually generated many problems due to the big amount of people who often take the train in Maranhão state and move down searching for work opportunities in the Southeast of Pará state. Since they have no qualification to carry on any specialized task, they are, therefore, fated to fail. Besides this, delays and the occurrence of accidents and run downs are quite common along the railway.  

The situation gets worse when it is considered that the Carajás Railway is in plain process of becoming a dual railway all along of its extension aiming to reach 100 millions tons/year in 2010. This has led to the enlargement of railway courtyards, diversion and terminals for the composition of trains with three engines and 312 railway wagons. All this tends to generate impacts even bigger on the environment and on the life conditions of the people who live along the railway. 

Present Context

The great mineralogical pole of Carajás is currently the world’s largest mineral and metallurgical complex. Along the Carajás Railway there are 14 siderurgies concentrated in a ray of 15 miles (150 km). They are mainly installed in the regions of Marabá, in Pará state, and in Açailândia, in Maranhão state. The iron ore is exported (100% in the particular case of various siderurgies) to the American, European, Chinese, and Japanese markets. 

Each siderurgy may consume over 300 tons of charcoal a day. This contributes enormously to the deforestation of the region: at present the native forest areas in the region are almost inexistent.    

This economic model is destructive, because it employs very few people in comparison with other possible ways of utilizing the land, it concentrates money and power in the hands of few investors of the region, it does not allow any kind of debate regarding possible alternatives, and affects people’s health through the emission of extreme pollution. 

It is worth mentioning that the Vale is currently the leading company in fine notification by the Brazilian Institute for the Environment (IBAMA). This organ is responsible for the environmental protection at a national level. Since its privatization, the Vale Company got 56 notifications of environmental infractions. That corresponds to the amount of R$ 37 millions (in Real, the Brazilian currency) in fines. This kind of notification normally results from the non-accomplishment of the conditions imposed at the moment of issuing the environmental license.  

In alternative to this multinational giant, small alternative experiences are being developed at a grassroots level: courses and initiatives on agri-ecology which is linked to the familiar production in the settlements, experiences of local commercialisation in rural-urban areas, recycling projects, and small alternatives productions within the towns. There would have a wide range of opportunity to promote micro-credit.

Although there has been a modern infra-structure that favours new industrial activities, there has prevailed in the region the concentration of income, of lands, and has also advanced the process of social exclusion, if taken into consideration the low economic return to the country and fundamentally to the local populations. Under a false image of a developing progress, there operates the plundering of resources on behalf of private and foreigner interests keeping the eagerness of the hegemonic nations governed by the law of market in detriment of the destruction of the State and of the annihilation of the Brazilian people.   
 

The emblematic case of Açailândia

Açailândia is a strategic town for the Vale Company for it is in Açailândia, in the interior of Maranhão state, that the Carajás Railway is connected with the North-South Railway. The enlargement of this last one, which intends to link the city of Goiânia, in the state of Goiás, to the city of Belém, in the sate of Pará, is a big infrastructure project in Brazil to which priority has been given for it construction is for the benefit of the agribusiness. 

Also in this town the Belém-Brasília Motorway (BR-010) meets up with the 222 Motorway (BR-222), which goes from Fortaleza, in the state of Ceará, down to Marabá, in the state of Pará.

The population of Açailândia has been in its great majority victim of various forms of environmental degradation. Açailândia has become an emblematic case amongst all the towns through which passes the Carajás Railway for it condenses in only one area different kinds of situations which compromise the wellbeing of the population (mining, deforestation, eucalypt monoculture, pollution caused by the siderurgy and charcoal-factories, slaved work, malnutrition, and children sexual exploitation). We are dealing with an expressive context of an entire region (Carajás) whereby the problems are very similar and people’s power is quite disproportional to that of the local acting big business companies.      

2. The Campaign

The “Justice on the Rails” Campaign began in the end of 2007 through the initiative of the Comboni Missionaries (a Catholic Church Religious Congregation), who have been working in diverse regions of Maranhão state, and rapidly was joined by others groups and social organisations which now compose both its executive coordination and networked actions.

We have taken as priorities the defence of the environment and of the Amazon threatened local populations, especially those people living along the Carajás Railway. The Campaign intends also to draw attention to the damages caused to the local indigenous people and to the labourers who are victims of exploitation.

The Campaign is being carried out involving strategically three segments of society: the popular movements and the basis of the population, universities, and the local public institutions.

We intend to take the opportunity of the World Social Forum (to be held in Belém, January 2009). The occasion of the WSF may offer a bigger visibility to the grave situation of the region and to give a contribution for the establishment of ample alliances at local and international levels; this experience of pressure on the Vale Company in the Carajás setting may also become a model for others regions.

The objectives of our action are mainly the following ones:

a) To evaluate the real impacts of the activities carried out by the mining Company Vale do Rio Doce (Vale) along the so called influence area of the Carajás Railway;

b) To propose a debate on the construction of mechanisms that makes possible the application of resources of the Vale in a way that the sustainable development of the local communities may be stimulated.

It is worth mentioning that up to the moment of its privatization the Vale Company had the obligation to contribute towards a Developing Found which was in force while the Company belonged to the State. The Vale was obliged to repay 8% of its invoicing to this Found to be invested on behalf of the populations that were directly affected.

The obligation to contribute with this Found, however, was ceased with the privatisation of the Company. Since then, through a Foundation, the Vale has adopted a policy of “social improvements” by developing small local projects with the application of funds absolutely disproportionate to the annual high profits of the Company and without any obligatory and permanent commitment with the local population.

There glimpses the possibility for the local populations and public administrations to demand                                          compensations and royalties according to the effects of the social and environmental impacts caused by the cycle of mining activities. This process, which may lead to a Term of Adjustment of Conduct, could result in the creation of a Developing Found, which would be supported by both the State and the Vale Company and equally administrated by the civil society for environmental and social investments (in the area of agri-ecology, reforestation of native species, subsidies for the familiar agriculture and cooperatives, for the recovery of rivers and streams, etc.). 

The Campaign is being worked through the year 2008 in diverse directions:

–           Study and research (data-collecting on environmental impact caused by the Carajás Railway, documentation of the damages caused on the people and the soil, environmental laws and partnerships of the Vale Company with the cities crossed by the Carajás Railway, comparison of the social and economic situation in the region of the Carajás with other similar in Brazil and abroad, analysis of the economic and countable data of the Vale, etc.)

–           Consciousness and mobilization of the people (realisation of seminars, production of material of propaganda, small TV documentaries, booklets, page on the internet, formations meetings, etc.)

–           Strengthening of the network for action that involves interested groups and movement both at national and international levels

A coordination team composed by representatives of social organizations, lawyers, judges and others professionals, Professors and university researchers have already taken the first steps of this work. Join this struggle for justice and for an equal share of the earth goods for the life of the people and the environment along the Carajás Railway!

The Coordination of the “Justice on the Rail” Campaign.

 Contacts:

www.justicanostrilhos.org

justicanostrilhos@gmail.com

0xx99-3538.1787

0xx99-8112.8913

Articles and Denunciations | Justiça nos Trilhos

Justice on the Rails!
People’s life and the Vale Company along the Carajás Railway  
Proposing an action to claim justice and respect to the environment

1. History/Context

The region in Brazil known as “Carajás” is a mineralogical province located in the Western Amazon. It was discovered by multinationals companies at the time of the dictatorship military and contains the world’s largest reserve of iron ore of a high content, considerable reserves of manganese, copper, bauxite, nickel, tin, and others minerals resources beside a vast possibility of forest exploitation, farming, cattle-breeding and an enormous hydro-electrical power.

The searching for iron ore in the Serra dos Carajás, which is located in the East of Pará state, began in the 60’s and was increased in the following decade when the State mining Company Vale do Rio Doce (Vale) took upon itself the total control of mineral resources in the region and created in 1979 the Programa Grande Carajás (Great Carajás Program)aiming to produce minerals on an industrial scale to supply the international market.

In order to consolidate this very big project it was necessary to develop infra-structure works of great impact, as for example the Tucuruí Power Plant, which is located in the Southeast of Pará state, the Madeira Port in São Luis in the Maranhão state (this is the busiest loading port in the North-Northeast), and the Carajás Railway, amongst others.

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