Pedra de Ferro – The Iron Stone: Chapter Five
Porto Sul is a proposed new terminal on the Brazilian coast of Bahia and the preferred destination for iron ore coming from the Caetite mine.
It represents the most contentious component of the Pedra de Ferro (“Iron Stone”) project, promoted by BAMIN. For which read ENRC – the company forced off London’s Stock Exchange and back to Kazakhstan in 2013, accused of fraud, corruption and various other malfeasances.
Last month, BAMIN’s plans advanced considerably further, when Porto Sul was granted an installation licence by the government.
A fortnight ago, a judge in the Bahia city of Ilheus confirmed this decision – thus ignoring compelling evidence, submitted by both federal and Bahia state prosecutors, that the project was unacceptable.
A significant number of community representatives, academics and environmentalists, joined the prosecutors.
They cited numerous potentially serious impacts that the port would have on livelihoods dependent on agriculture, fishing and tourism, as well the region’s extraordinary biodiversity [See Part One below].
Another call for restraint
Just two months earlier, nearly fifty Brazilian organisations issued a declaration, broadening these concerns to include criticisms of many other new or prospective Brazilian ports, arguing these would “not balance economic needs with mechanisms offering greater protection, autonomy and social participation in the licensing process”.
Brazil, they said, had become a “hostage” to corruption, and environmental licensing was now “merely a tool to service electoral interests…So far, no one recognises that, among government priorities… there must be sustainability in relation to the ports issue – quite the contrary” [See Part Two below].
On October 26 2014, Brazil’s incumbment Workers Party – and pro-business – president Dilma Rousseff was narrowly returned to power.
That does not augur well for the future of a country which, as a host of civil society leaders are now urging, should re-inforce social and environmental precepts, many of which are supposedly guarenteed in Brazilian law.
The battle against Porto Sul is far from being an isolated case. And its outcome will have implications reverberating far beyond Brazil’s Atlantic coast.
(In the next chapter of this work, we examine the nature of Brazil’s overall infrastructure, and ask whether there are viable alternatives to Porto Sul, should the Pedra de Ferro plan proceed).
Part One: A Letter from Ilheus regarding Porto Sul
We are a group of civil society organisations in Ilheus, south Bahia state, in the North East of Brazil. Since 2008 we have been following the process of environmental licensing of a disastrous port project called Porto Sul. Despite intense criticism, the project recently obtained partial approval from IBAMA (the Brazilian institute created to defend the environment) – days before the first round of Brazil’s presidential elections.
On October 16th 2014, our group participated in a six-hour long hearing, held in the Auditorium of the Federal Justice in Ilhéus, during which Judge Lincoln Costa Pinheiro presided over two public civil actions filed by federal and state prosecutors, both of whom questioned the licensing process.
Porto Sul is part of the Pedra de Ferro Project, owned by BAMIN, a Brazilian subsidiary of ENRC (Eurasian Natural Resources Company), based in Kazakhstan and involved in alleged fraudulent activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and elsewhere.
Pedra de Ferro is a mine-to port scheme,originally conceived in 2007, which recommended Ponta da Tulha in Ilheus, on Bahia’s coast, as the site for a port linked to a slurry pipeline and a mineral deposit located in the Bahian countryside city of Caetité.
However, these proposals were made without taking into account the consequences that the port would have on the Cocoa Coast and the existing ecological protection corridor, as designated by the Ministry of Environment, civil society and academy. The company then forced a change in Brazilian state strategy, proposing a new railway (West-East), and location of a port in an area of high ecological sensitivity – despite there being no requisite environmental guarantee feasibility study.
The questions raised by the Public Prosecutors in Ilheus on October 16th 2014, with the support of experts from the State University of Santa Cruz (UESC), failed to be adequately answered by the project managers and by consultants to the licensing authority. For civil society, the weak commitment and the connivance of IBAMA were self-evident.
There had been little or no attempt to analyse the most serious social and environmental impacts on the Ecological Corridor Esperança – Conduru programme. This corridor was conceived in 1993 by the Ministry of Environment under the Pilot Program for Tropical Forests (PPG-7), with funds from the World Bank and the Brazilian government; it is aligned with the recently-approved International Convention on Biodiversity and Aichi Targets, to which Brazil is a signatory.
This region of the Atlantic Forest is recognized by the international scientific community as one of the most important biodiversity conservation areas on the planet, especially since it contains significant and contiguous remaining forest, agro-forestry cocoa, salt marshes, wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs. The region that may be most affected is the Environmental Protection Area of the Enchanted Lagoon, situated between two other Conservation Units – Parque do Conduru and Parque da Boa Esperança.
Experts summoned by the Public Prosecutors warned that the Ecological Corridor located in this area is situated in the most biodiverse area of the Central Atlantic Forest Corridor, and so will be severely and irreversibly impacted by the Porto Sul project. The area is a habitat for many endangered endemic species, whose partial extinction is a possibility. These species include the Golden Face Lion Tamarin (mico leão da cars dourada), Collared Sloth (Preguiça de coleira), Monkey Mail Yellow Breast (Macaco pre go de peito amarelo), the Southeast Mutum (Mutum do Sudeste – recently discovered in Serra Grande) and the Harpy Eagle (Harpia), the largest eagle in the Americas. The port and the rail road may also trigger other projects, such as slurry pipelines, industrial zones and urban expansion.
Besides the terrestrial fauna and flora, the marine environment includes Humpback Whales (Baleias jubarte), Killer Whales (Orcas) , Whale Sharks (Tubarão baleia), Turtles (Tartarugas), Grouper Canapu (Mero canapu) and coral reefs (Recifes de corais).
The marine area at risk, as well as being important for the conservation of biodiversity and provision of other ecosystem services, is the most important fishery site on the southern Bahian coast, and provides livelihoods for thousands of fisherfolk in Ilhéus, Itacaré and Uruçuca.
Cocoa and tourism
Extensive areas of the cacao agroforestry system (cabruca) and families working in agriculture will be affected, thus jeopardising thousands of families of rural workers in the region. Since 2012, chocolate production has emerged as the most important prospect to support the economy of South of Bahia, along with tourism. The appreciation of cocoa on the world food market signals a resumption of the regional economy, which can generate 200,000 new jobs. (Much as in the “golden” period for cocoa in 1978). A new value chain, based on the production of fine chocolate, has been developed in the region since 2003.
In the coastal area, the Ilhéus-Itacaré road, funded by the Program of Tourism Development (PRODETUR), with funds from multilateral agencies, was devised to overcome the crisis of cocoa and economic stagnation in the nineties. Designed to promote regional eco-tourism, it is already suffering the consequences of the prospective port project, even before it is built, affecting an economy that mobilises many thousands of people on the Cocoa Coast and supports more than 10,000 direct jobs.
The Environmental Impact Study for Porto Sul display a faulty and fragmented analysis, which does not correctly reveal the actual impacts of the project. It induced BAMIN to omit or overlook key aspects of ecological relevance and the risks posed by the project to regional communities.
Challenges to this project began in 2008, when citizens attempted to enter into dialogue with the Government of Bahia, the largest promoter of the project, along with BAMIN/ ENRC. In November 2010, mounting civil society mobilization resulted in IBAMA discounting use of an area, called Ponto da Tulha, close to that of the current project, which the agency recognized to be one of high conservation importance. This judgement followed independent information, provided by both academia and civil society, which warned IBAMA of the presence in Ponta da Tulha of remaining forest and coral reefs – facts initially denied by BAMIN/ ENRC and its advisers.
IBAMA thereafter suggested Aritaguá, a locality next to Ponta da Tulha. But this was an area where forests, mangroves, rural and coastal communities, cocoa plantations and many springs of water and river streams are all situated. Even with so much evidence and the confirmation of the Brazilian academic community and civil society that this site would also be disastrous, IBAMA could not resist political pressure.
It granted a Preliminary Environmental License which, although suggesting more than thirty pre-conditions, effectively ensured that the BAMIN/ ENRC could go ahead with the project at this location. IBAMA stuck to bureaucratic and procedural issues, validating the interests and distortions of the BAMIN/ ENRC studies, even though these were riddled with contradictions and non-compliance. (As indeed has been the notorious Belo Monte Dam Project in the Amazon region).
Currently, BAMIN/ ENRC, Bahia state and federal government wish to avoid creating an alleged “legal uncertainty” before civil class actions are brought by public prosecutors.
This ignores the reality that the greatest insecurity will be experienced by at least ten communities directly affected by the project – the Agrarian Reform Settlement Bom Gosto and historic communities like Castelo Novo, Aritaguá e Juerana and those on the banks of the Rio Almada, cradle of Brazilian colonization from the sixteenth century. Not to mention threats posed to the precious biodiversity of the Atlantic Forest and the Bahian coast, to food providers, landscape for tourism, and to fishing and water for the cities of Ilheus and Itabuna, the two most important cities of the southern coast of Bahia, housing 500,000 people.
Of most concern is that, on 14 October 2014, the Ilhéus judge, in defiance of an enforceable legal clause (an approved TCA – Term of Conduct Adjustment ) disregarded a prior agreement made between the various parties. Specifically, this term reinforces a rule on environmental licensing which prohibits IBAMA from granting the installation license. This should have happened only _after_ fulfilment of all conditions of the preliminary license.
IBAMA, the very same day, issued the permit without complying with the conditions identified by the agency itself. This failure was noted in the IBAMA Technical Report, dated the same day of the court decision and the day the Installation License was granted. In addition, both the consultants to the Government of Bahia and those acting for BAMIN dismissed the Atlantic Forest Law, prohibiting any intervention (regardless of compensation) that compromises the ecological function of the Ecological Corridor.
The following organisations and individuals request that the authorities immediately initiate the cancellation of this project and the conceptual review of the same.
* Mario Mantovani, SOS Mata Atlântica Foundation
* Suzana Padua, the Institute for Ecological Research
* Clayton Lino, the National Council of the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve
* Guilherme Dutra, International Conservation of Brazil
* Renato Cunha and Ana Cláudia Fandi, GAMBA – Environmental Group of Bahia
* Peter Herman May, the Brazilian Society for Ecological Economics and Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
* Rui Barbosa da Rocha, the Floreta Viva Institute and State
* University Santa Cruz (UESC)
* Amilcar Baiardi, the Federal University of Bahia
* Marcel Santos Silva, the Association of Residents of Beira Rio Serra Grande Dam
* Maria do Socorro Mendonça, the Nossa Ilhéus Institute
* Ismail Abéde, AMORVIJU the Association of Residents of Juerana Village
* Representatives of the Settlement Bom Gosto in Ilheus.
Many people are following this process in the region, Brazil and throughout the planet, appalled at the direction the country is taking with this management model for its future – one which undervalues its own biodiversity precepts and would violate the laws of the Brazilian state.
Part Two: Promoting an environmentally sustainable and socially just future
In August 2014, two months before the above statement was issued by Bahia- based organisations and individuals campaigning against Porto Sul a broader declaration, was signed by nearly fifty national organisations (including WWF and Conservation International).
This was sent – among others – to the Brazilian Minister of the Environment, the national environmental agency, IBAMA, and the Minister of State Office of Ports.
It expressed deep concerns at the growth of industrial projects in coastal areas – especially ports – which “are bringing irreparable harm to traditional communities and will undoubtedly lead to future problems for the development of the country in environmental and economic terms”
The NGOs acknowleged “there are still bottlenecks in port efficiency” and that, under a law of June 5, 2013, it was decided to expand public investment in, and modernisation of, the country’s private sector.
Even so, they said: “[C]urrently, this does not balance economic needs with mechanisms offering greater protection, autonomy and social participation in the licensing process”. As a result, Brazil had become a “hostage” to corruption,, while environmental licensing was now “merely a tool to service electoral interests…So far, no one recognises that, among government priorities… there must be sustainability in relation to the ports issue – quite the contrary”.
They pointed out that “there are areas along the Brazilian coast that have a natural aptitude for environmental conservation and sustainable businesses, the generation of employment and income, and respect for local communities.”
However, they asserted that these factors are are not recognised in port construction plans – citing ones of Bahia Sul, Porto Acu in Rio de Janeiro, port Blue Sea at Babitonga Bay in Santa Catarina, Porto de Goiás in Pernambuco and “dozens of ports on the coast of Espirito Santo”.
All these areas have been considered Priority Areas for Conservation, as of 2007, of “very high importance” or “extremely high importance for conservation.”
The signatories to the letter that there are other ports, with lesser budgets, where a policy review is underway, and they single out Porto Sul for special mention.
They affirm that, in contrast to builidng new ports, the modernization of existing such terminals “can maximize their capacity and reduce their environmental impacts, enabling lower risks for the ecosystem and for traditional populations living in the vicinity
“It is necessary to revisit the model of development, using strategic plans to reassess the matrices, via a broad and open dialogue with society…A great power like Brazil cannot waste its riches, be they economic, social, cultural or environmental. .. Brazil can no longer ignore ecological limitations.
“We recognize the need for improvement of the port sector, but it must not be done without building participatory, democratic, modern and efficient processes, to promote a future which is environmentally sustainable and socially just”.
To this end, the NGOs demanding adoption of a Strategic Environmental Assessment and Integrated Development of port projects, and other projects of national relevance and similar impact.
Signatories to the declaration are:
SOS Mata Atlântica Foundation
Environmental Association Voice of Nature
Biosphere Reserve of the Atlantic
Living Forest Institute
Cunhambebe Association of Anchieta Island
Blue Point Environmental Institute
Institute Educates Brazil
Sustainable Ilhabela Institute
Institute for Coastal Conservation
Association of Friends of the Beach Camberley-EX
People’s Forum in Defense of Vila Velha:
FAMOPES – Federation of Residents Associations and Popular Movements
State of the ES.
AMECA-Green Movement Association Carijós – Sao Francisco do Sul – SC
Association Global Garbage – Brazil
Collective Memories of the Sea
Pastoral Council Fisherman
Association of Friends Canto Verde
Civil Association Greenpeace
International Collective in Support Artisanal Fisheries – ICSF, Brazil
Core Technical Solidarity (SOLTEC) / Action Research Project in Jail
Productive fisheries (PAPESCA), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)
National Movement Fisherman – MONAPE
Islanders Action Association
Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses – IBASE
Mater Natura – Institute for Environmental Studies
Environmental Group of Bahia – POSSUM
Institute for Ecological Research – IPE
Our Institute Ilheus – INI
Arapyaú Institute of Education and Sustainable Development
Society for Wildlife Research and Environmental Education – SPVS
National Pro Network Protected Areas – Pro-UC Network
Association Mar Brazil
Centre for Coastal Conservation Paraná – OC2