Heavy metal contamination, air pollution and various socio-environmental problems: this may be a close reality for the population of Rio Grande do Sul if the largest open-pit coal mine in Brazil, the Guaíba Mine, is installed in the region.
The project is planned to be implemented between the municipalities of Charqueadas and Eldorado do Sul, just 535 meters from the Regional Park of Jacuí Delta and 240 meters from an area of environmental preservation. The coal mine could operate for 23 years, producing a huge amount of waste in the rivers, and displacing 282 people, including a settlement that is the second-largest organic rice producer in the country.
“This coal mine will undoubtedly bring a high environmental impact to the region. Its implementation will affect the water, the vegetation and also the dwellings around it.”
“When we started our work in the region, we spoke with many local communities, fishermen, indigenous people, and none of them were aware of this project and how it would impact their lives. There was a clear intension to dismiss them from the process,” said interim director of 350.org Latin America, Ilan Zugman.
In partnership with a local institution, 350.org supported a Public Civil Action in February 2020 denouncing the exclusion of the indigenous communities, and the disregard of the OIT 169 Convention. This week, the Federal Justice determined the suspension of this project until proper consultation with these communities.
“The indigenous communities and organizations are legitimate parties with procedural capacity to go to court in defense of their rights and interests,” said the magistrate in the decision.
Renan Andrade, coordinator of the campaign in Rio Grande do Sul, celebrated the decision:
“It makes no sense for gaúchos to allow the installation of this coal mine while the whole world is abandoning this fossil fuel. In addition to decimating three indigenous villages, which the Justice recognizes as legitimate, it puts at risk the quality of life and health of 4.5 million people who live in the Metropolitan Region of Porto Alegre,” he said.
However, we remind you that the decision is not final, since Copelmi can still appeal. And for this reason, we still make a call to the entire population:
“We need to continue positioning ourselves against the Guaíba Mine. We need to continue mobilizing and keeping an eye on the movement that the industry makes,” concluded Renan.
Chinese investors eye this region
There is a clear interest from Chinese investors in Brazil. With poor infrastructure, and an authoritarian government without resources to make investments, Brazil is a fertile ground for the Chinese. “China is willing to invest heavily in Brazil and South America,” said Charles Tang, president of the Brazil China Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIBC).
The State of Rio Grande do Sul, in the South of Brazil, retains almost 90% of coal reserves. Not too far from the Guaiba Mine project location, in Candiota, landowners have been receiving tempting offers to sell their land with coal deposits to the Chinese. The simple purchase of land, however, does not guarantee its exploitation. For this, they must also have permission to mine the ore. Whoever holds this permission in the area is Companhia Riograndense de Mineração (CRM). A possible privatization of CRM, as the government intends, may open the door for Chinese and foreign companies to obtain this permission.
The Candiota deposit is the largest in the country, with more than 1 billion tons (considering what has already been measured), an estimated wealth of more than R $ 200 billion.
In the Guaiba Mine case, Copelmi almost confirmed a partnership with the Chinese Zhejiang Energy, but political uncertainty in early 2018 coupled with local mobilisations held them back. For now.
So, let’s comemmorate this massive win to the climate and keep our eyes open!
Coal kills and we will work hard to keep it on the ground!
Livia Lie – 350.org Digital Campaigns