19 October 2013
Earlier this month, Brazilian environmentalists received some good news about ENRC´s Porto Sul project in a protected Atlantic forest in Ilhéus, Bahia state.
One piece of news is official: after a conduct adjustment term (TAC) signed between the Bahia state public prosecutor’s department, the federal public prosecutor’s department, the Bahia state government and BAMIN (ENRC´s Brazilian subsidiary) , two new public meetings will be held later this year to hear BAMIN´s explanations about the controversial project.
The environmental permission granted by IBAMA (the Brazilian institute for environmental protection) has been suspended since the public meetings were announced.
Meanwhile, BAMIN is asking permission to export iron ore from Caetité mine through the port of Aratu, located near Salvador, the capital of Bahia State. Since the Porto Sul project was announced, NGO AÇÃO ILHÉUS (Action Ilhéus) has pointed out that the port of Aratu is the smartest choice for iron ore exportation by BAMIN. The middle-atlantic railroad (FCA) that goes directly to the port at Aratu passes only 100 km from the Caetité mine. A rail link of this length and some adjustments to the existing middle atlantic railroad would facilitate export of the iron ore without major environmental problems.
As people say, “ better late than never”. These two public meetings will provide some breathing space for environmentalists and a chance for IBAMA to recover its image after giving environmental permission for Atlantic forest destruction. After these meetings, the permission granted by IBAMA may be permanently cancelled.
The second piece of news is unofficial. Despite of the fact that ENRC´s offload to Kazakhmys has not yet occurred, the three major Kazakh shareholders said last month that they were intending to sell their Brazilian operations, and Glencore Xstrata was mentioned as a possible buyer. But it seems unlikely that Glencore Xstrata would be interested, given its recent propensity not to invest in any new operations and to trim its existing ones.
If there is any other giant mining company interested in ENRC´s Brazilian operations, it should be aware of the risks. We are witness of what happened to Eike Batista´s empire. He was the richest Brazilian man and one of the richest men in the world, working on petroleum, logistics, energy, mining, shipbuilding and coal businesses. He lost US$34.5 billion in 18 months. One of his worst mistakes was to rely too much on the Brazilian government.
Brazilian environmentalists are also disturbed by the existence of uranium in the Caetité mine. It is already known worldwide that the Brazilian government and its president, Dilma Roussef, are being spied on by the US government. The Brazilian government wants to keep the USA as its main partner while also maintaining close relations with Cuba, China, Angola, Syria, Kazakhstan and even Iran, so the US government is worried about its supposed socialist tendencies. It is impossible for us to know if the stubbornness of the Brazilian government over the Porto Sul project is rooted in secret plans for trade in uranium, but we all know that Brazil has the most efficient system of centrifuge for uranium enrichment in the world.
Paulo Emílio from NGO AÇÃO ILHÉUS says: “ Some years ago, when the Porto Sul project was announced, people from the public administration commented about the installation of nuclear plants in Bahia State. First, we laughed at this absurd idea. Now, after recent developments, we are worried about the destination of the uranium.”
Article provided by AÇÃO ILHÉUS