Communities Challenge Brazilian Mining Giant’s Environmental Impacts

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Dozens of communities in the Carajás region of northeast Brazil are challenging the water and air pollution caused by Vale SA, a Brazilian corporation that is one of the world’s top producers of iron ore, Fatima Hansia reports for Corp Watch. “This is not the development we want. We have more money in our pockets but no water to drink, the rivers are polluted,” George Pereira, secretary of the Itaqui-Bacanga Community Association, a municipality in closest proximity to the port told Inter Press Service.

Carajás contains the world’s largest reserve of iron ore, discovered in the late 1960s. It also contains other mineral resources, including manganese, copper, gold, nickel, and tin. In order to extract these minerals, Vale had to develop significant infrastructure including the Carajás Railway, which connects the province of Carajás with the Port of Ponta da Madeira, which the mining giant also owns, in San Marcos Bay.

Mayors of dozens of the communities along the Carajás Railway are up in arms against Vale. They say that Vale is causing environmental problems including air and water pollution. As Hansia reports, a study by the Reference Center for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases at the Federal University of Maranhão concluded that “40 percent of the residents experience respiratory illnesses, lung disease and skin infections.” Locals also claim that Vale has not fulfilled earlier promises to help develop programs that would benefit the communities, including education and sanitation. In 2012, Vale received the Nobel Prize of Shame, created by Switzerland’s Berne Declaration and Greenpeace, as the worst environmentally-friendly corporation in the world.


Fatima Hansia, “Vale Expansion in Maranhão Challenged by Local Communities” Corp Watch, May 7, 2014,

Mario Osava, “Port Development Brings Progress to Brazil—At a Price,” Inter Press Service, March 21, 2014,

Student Researcher: Wilerson Baros (College of Marin)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)