The National Committee for the Defense of Territories Against Mining launched an important survey of violations committed by the mining sector. In all, 823 incidents of conflict were recorded across the country in 2020, involving at least one million people.
The Map of Conflicts of Mining in Brazil is produced annually by the National Committee for the Defense of Territory Against Mining, which articulates around 100 civil society organizations and has been in operation since 2013.
The survey builds a database from conflict records in newspapers, news portals, social networks, independent media and material from social movements, added to the occurrences tabulated annually by the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) for mining conflicts in the field.
The Map of Conflicts of Mining in Brazil showed that, of the mapped cases: 45% took place in Minas Gerais, with Pará (14.9%) and Bahia (9.8%) in the sequence. Regarding the number of people affected, Minas Gerais concentrates 75%, that is, more than 750 thousand people, followed by Alagoas (66 thousand people), Pará (about 50 thousand people) and Roraima (about 43 thousand people) .
Number of affected could reach millions
The number of people affected is worrying, but it could be even greater. Letícia Oliveira, from the state coordination of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) in Minas Gerais, estimates that the failures of the Samarco/Vale/BHP Billiton dams in Mariana and the Vale dam in Brumadinho, respectively, may have reached 500,000 and 600,000 people directly. Indirect impacts would certainly reach millions of people.
“On the map are the conflicts that managed to be mapped. However, sometimes people do not speak, or are in more distant places that research and media cannot reach”, he comments. “In other situations there is non-recognition. The population does not feel affected, but its life is already being changed”.
Mining is the industry recognized as the most unhealthy and most dangerous
She also recalls the dams at risk of level 3 insecurity that exist in Minas Gerais, such as in the district of Macacos and Barão de Cocais, where the population has not yet returned to their homes. “And in this case, an entire region is impacted. The economic breakdown and social relations reverberate to other communities. The impacts are not located where the project is”.
According to the Brazilian Mining Institute (Ibram), 482 municipalities in Minas Gerais currently have mining activities and received Financial Compensation for Exploitation of Resources (CFEM) in 2020. The Map managed to raise conflicts in 121 municipalities in Minas Gerais, which suggests the existence of an underreporting records in the media and official bodies, on which the survey is based.
Land, water and health at the center of conflicts
Most of the conflicts raised had land (384 occurrences) and water (319 occurrences) as their main reasons. Isn’t it strange that conflicts happen because of two resources that are so abundant in the country?
“No, it’s not strange, because it’s inherent in the way mining works”, answers Luiz Paulo Siqueira, from the coordination of the Movement for Popular Sovereignty in Mining (MAM) in MG. “When installed, mining disfigures the landscape, removing mountains, forests, families. There is an extensive occupation of land by the mining logistics structures”.
In addition, the consequences for the surrounding environment end up causing more residents to “spontaneously” withdraw from the place. The conflict with water, according to Luiz, occurs for two main reasons: the destruction of springs and water recharge zones, as well as the contamination of water courses.
A third and strong reason present in the conflicts in Minas, says Luiz Paulo, are health problems. “These mining projects make the environment extremely unhealthy. Not only for communities, but in the workplace itself. Mining is the sector recognized by the International Labor Organization as the unhealthiest and most dangerous. The number of work accidents is very high here in Minas”, he reports.
Zema government has stimulated mining
The large number of cities with mining activities could be the main factor for Minas Gerais to lead the Map of Mining Conflicts. However, it would not be the only one. Popular movements have denounced the Romeu Zema (NOVO) government policy of stimulating mineral production “to the fullest”.
Also according to an Ibram 2020 report, Minas Gerais was the state that presented the highest increase in sales compared to the previous year: 122%. As a result, CFEM’s collection in the state more than doubled, reaching R$1.9 billion.
The rise is related to the rise in the price of iron ore (135% in one year), the rise in the dollar and exports to China. All of this, in the opinion of the MAM member, has increased the pressure in Minas for the licensing of new large mining projects.
“Romeu Zema has taken advantage of this wave of rising iron ore prices to stimulate mineral production as much as possible. In all Copam meetings [Conselho Estadual de Política Ambiental], fortnightly, they have pulled out an extensive list of projects to be licensed. These are projects with great social and environmental impacts, but which have not had the least space or time for debate with the communities that will be affected”, analyzes Luiz Paulo.
Source: BoF Minas Gerais
Edition: Elis Almeida