Judge halts excavation plans for largest-ever Brazilian goldmine

first_imgArticle published by Glenn Scherer Amazon Dams, Amazon Destruction, Amazon Mining, Amazon People, Controversial, Environment, Forests, Gold Mining, Indigenous Cultures, Indigenous Groups, Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Rights, Infrastructure, Rainforest Deforestation, Rainforest Destruction, Rainforest Mining, Rainforests, Rivers, Saving The Amazon, Social Justice, Threats To The Amazon The Belo Sun goldmine, to be Brazil’s largest, would use cyanide and other industrial processes to produce 5 million ounces of gold over 12 years. The company´s environmental impact assessment says it will process nearly 35 million tons of rock. The open-pit mine would leave behind gigantic solid waste piles covering many hectares, plus a huge toxic waste impoundment near the Xingu River.A Brazilian judge suspended the project’s installation license this week, faulting the Canadian company that would be excavating Belo Sun with improperly acquiring federal land and potentially removing families from those lands to “reduce social costs.”The proposed Belo Sun goldmine is within a short distance of the controversial Belo Monte dam, which has dislocated residents, caused deforestation, and harmed the environment, causing major fish kills on the Xingu River, a major tributary of the Amazon River. Residents are concerned that the addition of the nation’s biggest goldmine will do more severe harm.Residents fear that a failure of the Belo Sun toxic waste impoundment dam would create a disaster on the Xingu River similar in scale to the Samarco Fundão dam collapse in 2015, which dumped roughly 50 million tons of toxic iron ore waste into the Doce River, polluting it for 500 miles, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, and causing Brazil´s largest environmental disaster. A large open pit goldmine in Western Australia. The Belo Sun open pit goldmine, the largest in Brazil if excavated, would sprawl across a 175,000-hectare (675-square mile) site. After 12 years of digging, it would leave behind massive solid waste piles; along with a huge toxic waste impoundment near the Xingu River. Photo by Benutzer-CrDunder licensed the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2A Brazilian judge dealt a blow to the Belo Sun mining company’s plans to open the largest goldmine in Brazil this week. The proposed mine is slated for the Volta Grande bend of the Xingu River, very near the site of the controversial Belo Monte dam in Pará state.The court handed down a 180-day suspension of the Canadian company’s installation license. The ruling, issued February 21st, found that Belo Sun Mineração Ltda. had made efforts to illegally obtain federal land and to dispossess the rural populations living on those lands while also preventing them from hunting and fishing.The decision noted that while the company had not yet obtained an environmental permit for its proposed mine, it improperly purchased the land from three purported owners. Judge Álvaro José da Silva Sousa described this as “a way of removing the families from these areas and thus reducing the company’s social costs”.The proposed Belo Sun goldmine site covers 175,000 hectares (675 square miles), would be the biggest in Brazil, and produce an estimated 5 million ounces of gold over a 12-year period. The company´s environmental impact assessment says it will process nearly 35 million tons of rock. The open pit mine would leave behind massive rock spoil piles covering many hectares, plus a huge toxic waste impoundment near the Xingu River. The company had planned to spend US $5 million on exploration this year. The court decision sent shares in Belo Sun down by 2.68 percent to $1.09 in mid-afternoon trading in Toronto on Tuesday.The Brazilian judge concurred with an argument by the Public Defenders’ Office, noting that the proposed site of the mine has also been the focus of agrarian land reforms. He pointed out too that three years had passed between the issuance of the preliminary environmental license and the installation license, but that the area’s residents still remained in limbo regarding their land rights. Da Silva Sousa said that it is “unjustifiable” that the company has left the residents “still at the mercy of fate without knowing what their destiny is as [to when] the Volta Grande mining project [will] begin set up.”The judge said that the firm may not undertake any activities to develop the mine site as long as the land issues remain unresolved. In early February, Brazil´s National Council on Human Rights appealed for a denial of the dam´s license.The Volte Grande of the Xingu River, deprived of water by the Belo Monte dam and reservoir, has seen significant fish kills in the recent past. The proposed Belo Sun goldmine, if allowed to go forward, could do more environmental harm. Map by Morgan Erickson-Davis / MongabayBelo Sun responded to questions from Mongabay and said that it will appeal the decision: “Belo Sun Mineração has already signed sales contracts for properties with the occupants of the lots and/or farms relevant to the Volta Grande Project’s installation following all the necessary legal parameters and independent appraisals of the areas and their improvements.” The firm said it had prepared a plan for reallocation, negotiation and social inclusion aimed at two of the affected communities, Vila Ressaca and Vila Galo, and that it had submitted this plan to the state’s environmental agency. The company also maintained it had “a deep dialogue with these communities”, and that it would update its census and discuss relocation with residents in 2017.The Belo Sun mining project has run into snags before. In 2014, another judge suspended the Canadian firm´s environmental license because the firm hadn´t adequately evaluated the impact the mine would have on nearby indigenous communities. The Canadian company is owned by Forbes & Manhattan, a private merchant bank. According to Forbes & Manhattan´s website, the bank focuses on “the resource-based sector, technology, telecommunications, and on-line gaming.” Social responsibility is also a priority for the bank, according to its website.Residents living in the area targeted by the mine have already faced serious challenges brought by rapid development. Last year, the Belo Monte dam, the world’s third largest hydropower project, began operating nearby, with devastating impacts to the environment and to the fishery, affecting people who depend on the Xingu River for survival.Jackson de Sousa Dias, 25, is a critic of the mining project and a member of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens, MAB). “First of all, [the mining company is] a transnational company, it’s Canadian. So, the majority of the shareholders are Canadian banks. So, we already know where the wealth from the Amazon is going, to the Canadians,” de Sousa Dias said.He also pointed out that IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental protection agency, is required to monitor the area around the Belo Monte dam for six years once the dam begins operating at full capacity, planned for 2019. “IBAMA has to monitor this region until 2025 because the [river’s] flow in this region has been reduced by up to 80 percent by the Belo Monte dam. So our position is that there shouldn’t be any other major projects until 2025 since we won’t know the full impact in this region [of the dam] until then.”Screenshot of a page from the BeloSun Mining website. The Canadian company promoting the project is actively seeking investors, but it ran into a major litigative stumbling block this week when the Brazilian courts put a 180-day hold on the project.The Xingu River flows through the state of Pará, whose Secretariat of the Environment and Sustainability (SEMAS) granted an installation license to Belo Sun for the mine at the beginning of February. IBAMA declined to comment to Mongabay about this week’s court suspension, stating that SEMAS is handling the licensing process.Carolina Piwowarcyzk Reis, an attorney with the Instituto Socio-Ambiental (ISA) and NGO, told Mongabay that Belo Sun´s licensing process, “has had various irregularities since the beginning, starting with the lack of prior, free and informed consultation.” This, she said, applies to the indigenous populations in the area as well as the traditional populations who rely on fishing and small-scale gold mining for a living.The specter of Brazil´s largest environmental disaster to date, also hangs over the Belo Sun project. Environmentalists criticize the Canadian company´s plan to use a waste storage dam similar to the Fundão dam employed by Vale and BHP Billiton´s joint venture, Samarco in Minas Gerais state. The dam collapsed on November 5, 2015, dumping roughly 50 million tons of toxic iron ore waste into the Doce River and was Brazil´s largest-ever environmental disaster.The controversial Belo Monte dam, which forced indigenous and traditional communities from their lands, caused deforestation and major fish kills. The Belo Sun goldmine could do serious environmental harm and would be disruptive to indigenous and traditional communities. Photo by Zoe SullivanWhen asked about its willingness to consider other, safer storage options, a Belo Sun spokesperson told Mongabay that the Volta Grande waste dam would be smaller, with just one-third the Fundão dam´s capacity, and that “after the closure of operations, [the waste storage impoundment] offers the option with the greatest financial and technical viability.”Gold mining requires the use of toxins to separate the gold from waste. Belo Sun has said that it will use cyanide to process the 5 million ounces of gold it expects to extract from the project. Residents and activists fear that a spill of these toxic materials would prove disastrous to the Xingu River, impacting communities already made vulnerable by deforestation and the Belo Monte dam.Belo Sun responded to questions from Mongabay about the use of cyanide, explaining that the poisonous chemical compound is used internationally to separate valuable minerals from ore. The firm also said that every step of the production cycle will be closely monitored and that “the cyanide will be placed in adequate installations, with closed and protected tanks.”Bel Juruna called the judge’s suspension this week “the best news I’ve had about Belo Sun yet”. Juruna lives in the village of Muratuí along with 70 members of the Juruna tribe. “We’re fighting a lot to be consulted because that is our right,” she told Mongabay. “There are going to be a lot of impacts, of cyanide and other things, and there’ll be a time when neither [Belo Sun nor Norte Energia, the Belo Monte dam’s operator] wants to take responsibility for compensation measures or for the environmental damage.”She concluded: “We don’t want what happened with Belo Monte to happen again.” Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.last_img read more