The mining company Vale has disclosed in the main media in the state of Minas Gerais that on September 28th it will hold a virtual public hearing. The objective is to debate the project to expand the Tamanduá and Capitão do Mato mines, in Nova Lima (MG).
The public hearing is a step in the environmental licensing process, it has a strictly consultative character, that is, even if the project is rejected by the community, it has no decision-making power. A space like this, held remotely, makes it difficult and unfeasible for the participation of a large part of society interested in this debate.
Vale wants to prevent society as a whole from knowing, in fact, the degree of destruction that its project will cause
The Public Ministry of Minas Gerais (MPMG) recently filed lawsuits requesting the postponement and cancellation of virtual public hearings because it understands that, remotely, the hearings do not guarantee the full participation of society. Thus violating the right to information about environmental processes.
The actions have been successful in court, as was the case with the mining project in Serra do Curral.
However, when it comes to mining company Vale, there is a pattern in the adoption of tactics to hinder social participation and, above all, prevent access to real, correct information on the dimension of its projects and impacts on the affected territories.
In the case in question, the mining company intends to speed up the licensing process and prevent society as a whole from knowing, in fact, the degree of destruction that its project will cause.
The expansion of the Tamanduá and Capitão do Mato mines will imply the occupation of an area of more than 553 hectares, the equivalent of 775 soccer fields, without counting the entire area already occupied/destroyed by the other structures of the Vargem Grande Complex.
The two mines will have a useful life of 16 years, with a total production capacity of 851.9 million tons of iron ore. At the same time, 159.5 million tons of waste will be generated, which will be deposited in large piles near neighborhoods and condominiums in the region.
The two mines will have a useful life of 16 years, generating 160 million tons of sterile, which will be deposited in large piles near neighborhoods and condominiums in the region.
The Vale do Sol neighborhood and several condominiums are neighbors to the mines and will have their living conditions harmed by the expansion project. Noise pollution will be substantially aggravated, with the increase in detonations and movement of machinery, which operate 24 hours a day.
The issue of health and quality of life will suffer an even more brutal attack, as the volume of ore dust that will be emitted by the pits will make the environment unhealthy, causing respiratory, eye and skin diseases. Also, imagine the stress and overload of housework with cleaning up the dust or having to live with closed windows in your own home?
According to Vale’s own studies, 25 caves will be removed, 4 of which are of maximum relevance
The project foresees the expansion in a priority area for environmental conservation.
The expansion of the mines will suppress an extensive region of Atlantic forest, causing climate impacts, air quality and loss of habitat – in a territory with the presence of rare species, whether of fauna and flora. The landscape will be completely disfigured, with the destruction of mountains, valleys and caves. According to Vale’s own studies, there are 25 caves in the mine expansion area that will be removed, 4 of which are of maximum relevance.
Destruction of the waters of Belo Horizonte
The entire region intended for the expansion of the Tamanduá and Capitão do Mato mines comprises a territory with a large water storage capacity. This is a strategic area for the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte (RMBH), as it is a fundamental territory for guaranteeing water security.
According to the study presented by Vale, more than 120 springs will be impacted by the project, springs of good and excellent quality, in addition to countless water courses that will be contaminated with siltation and sediment transport.
The environmental impacts at the Estação Ecológica de Fechos are extremely serious, with large dimensions and irreversible consequences. The Station is one of the main springs of the great Belo Horizonte, responsible for supplying dozens of neighborhoods.
With the expansion of the mines, there will no longer be a buffer zone, the pits will border the Station’s area and the lowering of the water table will, in the short term, result in the drying up of springs in the region.
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Vale has been trying for years to expand the Vargem Grande Complex towards the Fechos Ecological Station. There is a whole social understanding, a true consensus among environmentalists, universities and different state institutions, such as the State Forest Institute (IEF) and Copasa, which point to the need to expand the Fechos Ecological Station.
In defiance of the will of the society of Minas Gerais, Vale resumes its project to expand the caves, putting at risk the quality of life and water security of the great Belo Horizonte.
If there was still someone who believed in Vale’s advertisements, whether due to lack of information or even naivete, I believe that with these latest moves, the contempt that the mining company has for the demands and reality of the people of Minas becomes more evident. We are facing one of the worst water crises and Vale wants, at the cost of cash, to approve a project that will destroy the guarantee of water supply for the metropolitan region.
It is important to remember that the last situation of water scarcity that we faced in the same proportions was in 2015, when Copasa started to carry out water rationing in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte (RMBH).
Still in 2015, to face new water shortage scenarios, Copasa started the works to capture the Paraopeba River, thus increasing the availability of treated water for the population.
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However, on January 25, 2019, Vale commits a crime, kills 270 people and the entire bed of the Paraopeba River, destroying the catchment work that would face the water shortage. To this day, Vale has gone unpunished and has not yet delivered the works with a new catchment point for the Paraopeba River and, if that wasn’t enough, it has moved forward with projects to destroy our water sources.
This expansion project for the Tamanduá and Capitão do Mato mines cannot be continued. We are facing the definition of the fate of the RMBH water security guarantee.
What is at stake is our water or the advance of frontiers to maximize the profits of a multinational mining company. It is essential that we expand our capacity for mobilization, resistance, denunciation and pressure in the Legislative Assembly of Minas Gerais for the immediate approval of the project that expands the Fechos Ecological Station.
*Luiz Paulo Siqueira biologist and state coordinator of the Movement for Popular Sovereignty in Mining (MAM).
**This is an opinion piece. The author’s vision does not necessarily express the newspaper’s editorial line.
Source: BoF Minas Gerais
Edition: Rafaella Dotta