Since July this year, authorizations for mining activities in Brumadinho (MG) have been the responsibility of the city’s City Hall. The government of Minas Gerais transferred part of its license powers to Brumadinho through agreement 05/2021, signed on July 15th. Under the agreement, undertakings with a large environmental and social impact must be authorized by the municipality’s environmental department.
The scoreboard doesn’t seem balanced: 16 x 12. There are 16 city hall workers to check the entire process, versus 12 mining companies operating in the city. Mining companies’ wishes may have become easier to achieve.
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According to the legislation, projects with a great environmental and social impact must be evaluated by the States. The reason is the technical ability that often only they have.
On the other hand, it is also legally allowed to transfer part of the license powers to cities. The justification would be faster assessments. Today, a license assessment can take years at the State Secretariat for the Environment and Sustainable Development (Semad).
Nationally, the transfer of duties is authorized by Complementary Law 140 of 2011. At the state level, by Law 21,972 of 2016.
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According to the agreement, Brumadinho is now responsible for the licensing of projects from classes 1 to 6 that are in the normative deliberation 217 of 2017 of the State Council for Environmental Policy, Copam. These classes are the environmental impact levels of the activities. With the greatest impact being class 6.
According to the standard’s single annex, these classes include, among others, mining, metallurgy, electronics, paper and cardboard, leather, rubber, chemical, food and beverage industries.
The most degrading is mining and the evaluation to authorize this activity requires a well-trained structure and technicians. Slips or interferences in the analysis can lead to tragedies such as the one that occurred in the municipality of Brumadinho, in 2019, after the explosion of the Vale dam. 270 were killed, apart from the social and environmental damage.
It is also attribution of the city hall: licenses for activities that will suppress native vegetation; the inspection of activities, which may have the assistance of the state and federal governments; dissemination in an easily accessible place of the authorizations granted.
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City Hall Position: “A dream come true”
The mayor of Brumadinho, Avimar de Melo Barcelos (PV), celebrated the agreement in a video. In his opinion, the measure will bring good results to the city.
“I’m here today to talk about something very important that happened: Brumadinho becomes class 6. What is class 6? It’s being able to release all licenses without relying on the state any longer; that total bureaucracy. Also, people, a good thing: the decommissioning of dams becomes the municipality’s responsibility. This will reduce bureaucracy in the entire environmental issue within the municipality. For us, it’s a dream come true”, stated the mayor in a video.
16 workers for the entire process
The main criticism of this agreement is the breach to economic and political pressures. The city hall, being close to the entrepreneur, would be more susceptible to this.
“Every mayor wants to license in the city. I don’t think it should be like that for projects with high and medium potential for damage”, says Julio Grilo, former superintendent of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA). “The state is usually farther away from political pressures and has a technical body that is better trained.”
The report asked the city of Brumadinho the number of employees of its Department of Environment and Sustainable Development, as well as the qualification of professionals. There are: a biologist, an environmental manager, an environmental engineer, a specialist in environmental and forestry engineering.
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In the regularization department: two biologists, two environmental managers and a lawyer. In inspection: four inspectors. In the legal department there are 3 lawyers and administrative collaborators. There are, therefore, 16 workers.
In Nova Lima, another large mining city in the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte, there are currently 58 employees in the environmental sector, according to the city’s transparency portal. And the municipality does not have authorization for class 6 licensing.
“What I say is that they [a prefeitura de Brumadinho] they would not have a capable or sufficient team, for example, to analyze the safety of a dam, verify the cumulative and synergistic impacts of new lowering of the water table, among other things”, completed Júlio Grilo. He was the only technician who warned of the risk of Vale’s structure collapsing in 2019.
Professional absence, under pressure
In the case of the city of Brumadinho, the chances of political interference are not few either. The municipality is home to large mining companies. According to the National Mining Agency (ANM), there are 12 active mineral companies.
A curiosity draws attention. The city’s environment secretary, Alcimar Barcelos, in addition to being the mayor’s brother, is close to the mineral sector.
According to information from the Federal Revenue, Alcimar Barcelos is one of the six owners of Ouro Preto Empreendimentos e Participações Ltda, which provides consultancy in business management. Integrates the board of partners Aluizio Alfredo Alves Dutra. According to the Revenue, Aluizio is also one of the two owners of Tejucana Mineração SA, one of the mining companies operating in Brumadinho.
Political pressures from the mining sector, even on the state level, are known and generate results. As already revealed by Brasil de Fato, state parks were the target of legislative proposals to be reduced. The failed intention sought to give space to mining. Among these parks are Arêdes, in Itabirito, and Rola Moça, in the capital region.
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The 2019 report by Repórter Brasil shows the hidden face of lobby of mining. That is, the political pressure of the sector.
Some of the most powerful politicians in Minas have strong friendship ties with the most important name in the mineral sector in the state, Fernando Coura, former president of the Brazilian Mining Institute (Ibram). Among these politicians are former governors Alberto Pinto Coelho (PP), Fernando Pimentel (PT), current senator Carlos Viana (PSD) and Mauri Torres, counselor of the Court of Accounts of Minas.
Only two cities in MG have this guarantee
The former mayor of a large mining town in the country agreed to comment anonymously on the agreement. “There may even be no facilitation for mining companies. But that kind of licensing is a lot, a lot of responsibility. I would never take on such a responsibility. Not even the longest-lived municipalities in mining in the country, such as Itabira, have this type of licensing. I wouldn’t pull a weight like that on my back at all”, commented the former mayor.
In Minas Gerais, only two cities, including Brumadinho, are authorized to grant the Class 6 guarantee.
The 1st Attorney of Justice of Brumadinho, of the Public Ministry of Minas Gerais, stated that it expects to hold, next week, a meeting between prosecutors and the environment secretary of Brumadinho to discuss the agreement, among other topics.
Source: BoF Minas Gerais
Edition: Rafaella Dotta