Article by Ação Ilhéus (Action Ilhéus), Brazil
The “Porto Sul” project was initiated on March 3rd 2007 with a letter of intent signed between the Government of the State of Bahia – Brazil and the Bahia Mineração Ltda (BAMIN – a subsidiary of London-listed ENRC in Brazil). This project includes the construction of a railroad (FIOL) which eventually should connect the town of Ilhéus, located on the coast of Bahia state, to the town of Figueirópolis in the interior in the state of Tocantins.
Besides the railroad, the project is to include:
- a private ENRC port terminal for the exportation of iron ore,
- a public port dedicated to the exportation of iron ore and various product such as soya, clinker, alcohol, cotton, etc,
- a storage area
- an industrial zone
- a new road system
The iron ore is to be extracted from the mine located in the state of Bahia ( Caetité ) and will be transported to the private port terminal located in the vicinity of Ilhéus by rail. The owner of the mine is BAMIN, a subsidiary of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC). During the first stage, the amount of iron ore to be exported as pellet feed is 25 million tons / year.
Originally, the private port terminal was located in “Ponta da Tulha”, region located 20 kilometres north of Ilhéus.
On November 8th 2010, IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Nature Resources), after analyzing the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) issued by BAMIN , issued a technical advice (186/210) with the statement that the preliminary license should not be granted for the selected location and suggested transforming this special Atlantic Forest area into a protected area because of its environmental significance.
A few months later, the State of Bahia issued a new decree (# 12.724 from April 11th 2011). With this decree a new area of 48,333,024.72 m2 was declared as public utility, to be expropriated for the construction of the industrial and storage area of “Porto Sul”. The new location, called Aritagua, is located about 5 kilometres south of the original location, Ponta da Tulha. It is obvious that the impact which led IBAMA to deny the preliminary license for the first location also fully applies to the Aritagua area. Furthermore, the initial area of 17,713,175.48 m2 would now be trebled.
On November 25th 2011 a new decree (# 13.468) was issued with the objective of reducing the area from 48,333,024.72 m2 to 22,686,830.7686 m2. Finally, on April 13th 2012 a new decree (# 13.918) was issued by the State of Bahia and the final area to be attributed to the Complex Porto Sul is now 18,600,000.00 m2.
It is hardly necessary to emphasize the importance of the Atlantic Forest, which was designated by UNESCO as one of the Earth’s five most important biodiversity hotspots and the largest biosphere reserve, making it one of the world’s highest priority regions for conservation.
It is obvious that the transport, storage treatment and shipping of iron ore is absolutely incompatible with the nature of our planet’s largest biosphere area and would, if built as planned, lead to the destruction and devastation of the first biosphere reserve in Brazil.
It should be also mentioned that the new selected area is located within the Environmental Preservation Area (EPA) and, therefore, inside the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve.
A new Study of the environmental impacts was issued by BAMIN / DERBA in August 2011. Most of the information included in the new study is based on the former study done in August 2009 for the area of Ponta da Tulha. Most of the habitants of the Aritagua and Juerana Village area never saw any biologist or geologist performing a study in this area.
On February 1st 2012 IBAMA issued a report pointing out the weakness of the Study issued by BAMIN/DERBA. It noted several errors, inconsistencies, and the lack of sufficient information.
In May 2012 BAMIN / DERBA replied to IBAMA’s questions with a 1000 page publication. The answers given by BAMIN / DERBA are mainly superficial, of poor quality, and not the results of a serious study.
Finally, on February 1st 2013 IBAMA has issued the preliminary authorization (Parecer # 09/2012) for the former study of the port complex. IBAMA’s decision is based on a superficial study: all answers from BAMIN / DERBA have been accepted without serious objection, and it is obvious that no more intensive work was involved by the staff of IBAMA.
Moreover, a new project has been announced by a company called South America de Metais(SAM) which is a subsidiary of Honbridge Holdings Ltd. The mine is located in Grão Mogol (in the north of the state of Minas Gerais) and belongs 100% to Honbridge Holdings. The iron ore is supposed to be transported by a 480 kilometre slurry pipeline to the Aritagua area. The project, called Vale do Rio Pardois, is managed by Votorantim Novo Negócios, which was owner of the mine before selling it to Honbridge Holdings on March 5th 2010. The expectation of SAM is to export 25 million tons of iron ore pellets using the Porto Sul Complex. Besides iron ore, 50 million m3 of water will be transported within the slurry pipeline and separated from the iron ore in Aritaguá. The return of this water to Grão Mongol is not foreseen. The EIA was issued in June 2012 and a public discussion took place on January 24th 2013 in Ilhéus, undermining SAM’s claims.
The Non Governamental Organization AçãoIlhéus (Action Ilhéus) is actively working against the Porto Sul Project, defending nature and communities’ rights, especially at Juerana Village, which has a population of about 700 people and will be severely affected by the project .
NGO AçãoIlhéus spokesman, Mr. Ismail Abéde, says that the most critical risks of the project are:
- Erosion of the coast line (EIA: 80m erosion to the north side of the harbour and alluvium to the south of it; the suggestion of a remedy is illusory)
- Irrevocable destruction of the environment (Atlantic rain forest, animals and plants threatened by extinction [Fauna: golden-bellied capuchin, Puma concolor, Chaetomyssubspinosus Bradypustorquatus, Callistomyspictus, Didelphisaurita, Sphiggurusinsidiosus; Flora: Euterpeedulis, Polyandrococos caudescens, Geonoma schottiana, Geonoma pohliana]
- Future expansion of the industrial area (The initial project of BAMIN considered 25 million tons/year of iron ore to be shipped; SAM, also intends to export 25 million per year. Both companies intend to double their exportation in the near future.)
- Increaseof child prostitution
- Uncoordinated urbanization and development of slums
- Unemployment after completion of the port complex
- Harm to the tourism industry through destruction of landscape
- Harm to artisanal fishing activity
- The port will be an obstacle for Humpback Whales: the harbour is on their migration route and reproduction area, 3.5 km offshore
- Alteration of sea water quality due to the emptying of ballast water
- Incoherent information about technical planning and execution
- Inadequate infrastructure in Ilhéus City (roads, security, health care).