Another “Beautiful” that is settling on the edge of the Xingu River

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 

Another “Beautiful” that is settling on the edge of the Xingu River

 A native Amazon boy stands on a bank of the Xingu River down from the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in Vitoria do Xingu

After performing mining research for about three years, the Canadian mining company Belo Sun intends to install in the municipality of Senador José Porfírio (Pará) the project Volta Grande, the largest project of open pit gold mining of Brazil, according to on your site.

The story is Elizabeth Darling and published by the echosite, 5/6/2013.

The company expects that the previous license (LP) is issued yet this semester and says that will act in accordance with the best environmental practices. However, the environmental licensing process of the enterprise faces dilemmas, as found in this report.

The local society fear for potential environmental impacts, as future risks to the supply and quality of water for siltation and release of pollutants, as well as the use of explosives, deforestation and toxic waste buildup that could affect the Xingu River and, consequently, indigenous peoples and bordering.

But at the heart of our discussions there is also another complicating already recognized by institutions such as the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), the Defensoria Pública do Estado do Pará and the National Indian Foundation (Funai), as well as non-governmental organizations as the ISA (socioenvironmental Institute).

The main reservoir of the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant, under construction in the city of Altamira, is 50 miles from the area where the mining company plans to install its operations. Although they are independent projects, due to this proximity, according to critics, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the Beautiful Sun should have taken into consideration the joint effects of these two major works in the Volta Grande, about 100 Km stretch of the Xingu River, which may have reduced flow until their 80% in the coming years due to the impoundment of water aimed at Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant operations.

Fearing potential risks to water supplies, the MPF has recommended to the Secretary of State for Environment of Pará (Sema-PA) not grant Prior License (LP) the Beautiful Sun, without expansion of the Environmental impact study. Requested, including, specific analyses on impacts that may be caused to indigenous lands and bordering the region that should be consulted on the project. In the Volta Grande, the two nearest indigenous lands are Paquiçamba and Arara.

In addition to the strong cultural relationship with the Xingu River, the communities depend on it directly to fishing, hunting and gathering activities and family agriculture. The socio-environmental Institute uses the same argument. Based on a document which enumerates the environmental risks and flaws in the Environmental impact study, filed a request to the Secretariat for the environment of Pará (Sema-PA) which, by their nature and location, consider the project infeasible.

The dangers

The main risk involved in the project is further exacerbating the reduction of the flow of the Xingu River in the region of the Back Big. This can worsen water quality and affect wildlife, vegetation, fisheries and navigation. In short, can prevent or impede, in addition to the effects of Belo Monte, the ways of life of the local population.

Second review of the ISA, the Environmental impact study of the Beautiful Sun is inconsistent: “the assertion that the period of drought has flows less than 2,500 m³/s (cubic metres per second) is highly generic, since the drought brought about by the Belo Monte Dam will be able to vary the flow of the River from 700 m3/second in a few months to more than 2,000 m³/sec in another” (each cubic meter corresponds to a thousand gallons of water).

Leonardo Amorim, Xingu Program Attorney of the ISA, said in an interview with ((the)) echo, that the uncertainty that still hangs over the environmental impact of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant prevents forecasts with a minimum of confidence about the impact of this project another Beautiful, the Beautiful Sun. “If the risks that can occur because of Belo Monte, especially in terms of reducing the flow, still will have to be monitored and documented in the coming years, how to install in the same region, another project with high impact, forecast that neither took into account that another big project?” he said. He recalls that the Belo Monte licensing was conditioned to a schedule of monitoring of its impact on the Xingu River during 6 years, from the beginning of operations, planned for 2015. MPF and ISA await return of environmental agency

The issues mentioned by Amorim also concerned Thais Santi Cardoso da Silva, Attorney of the Republic, which signed in conjunction with Mehdi Alves Barbosa, federal prosecutor, also the manifestation of the Federal prosecutors. She said she is waiting for a return of the Secretariat of Environment of Pará. “I’m going to make a reply,” he said in an interview with ((the)) echo.

If the License is released by the environmental agency, without the environmental impact study is extended to meet the requirements of analysis of impacts on indigenous communities and the Riverside Thais Santi warned that will question in court. “We are not against the company. Our concern has a preventive character, “he said. She argues that civil society should participate in the debate on the project. “Communities are stunned at the lack of information”.

Leonardo Amorim agrees and States that a Prior license release that does not consider the arguments of the institutions who have already officially expressed by the environmental organ Stop can be questioned in court. “The Sema should issue technical analysis on the project. We are waiting for, “he says.

Finally, the Defensoria Pública do estado do Pará also became involved in the case and sent a letter to the Secretariat of environment (Sema-PA). The document says that the company has prepared a technical note, with answers to society about doubts raised during the first public hearing. However, the content has not been attached to the study of Environmental Impact.

((the)) echo attempted to interview Mariana Queiroz, Mining project manager of Sema-PA. In response to the request of interview about the environmental licensing Project Volta Grande, she replied in a short email: “the process is in the process of technical analysis, waiting for reply notification”. The notification, according to Queiroz, the completion by the Beautiful Sun of the studies requested by the institutions already mentioned in this report. Accumulation of mining tailings generates uncertainties

Leonardo Amorim raises another Big project risk. Waste buildup that can leak and pollute the river or the soil. The tailings mince is the rock from which was extracted the gold by chemical and physical processes. “In 2000, for example, the breaking of the tailings dam gold mine of the Bay Mare, in Romania, caused the greatest ecological disaster in Europe since Chernobyl, contaminating 400 Km of the Danube River to the Black Sea,” he says.

Amorim quoted 2011 study of North American researchers David Chambers and Bretwood Higman. They claim that “since the 2001 accident rates are disproportionately high in relation to the anticipated life cycle to these reservoirs [waste]”. According to Amorim, the study shows that accidents are not limited “to old technologies in countries with lax regulation”, since 39% of them took place in mines in the United States. In another article, 2010, Shahid Azam and Li Qiren, researchers of the topic in Canada say: “For a world inventory of 18,401 mining areas, the failure rate in the last hundred years is estimated at 1.2%. This is more than two orders of magnitude above the failure rate in conventional water retention dams, which is registered at 0.01% “.

Project closes illegal mining cycle, Executive says

The Vice President of exploration of the Beautiful Sun, Helio Diniz, said in an interview with ECHO project Volta Grande contains a local cycle of illegal mining activities, carried out with informal jobs, without use of safety equipment for workers. The result, he said, were often deadly accidents, and contamination of water and soil.

Day avoided comment on the criticisms to the project Back. Asked about the questions of the prosecution service and the ISA, replied: “we are working to carry out all the additional studies requested by Sema, organ responsible for forwarding the questions regarding the project.”

Regarding the water of the Xingu River (pegged to the licensing process), Day stated that “the company has provided additional clarifications to the Sema show that operations do not undermine the local water supply”. The Beautiful Sun will have a pipeline pumping capacity of 250 m³/hour, in the installation phase. In the operation the demand envisaged should triple, passing the 764m m³/hour (equivalent to 0.2 m3/second). Although these are the estimated values of maximum consumption, it was emphasized that, in the two stages of the project, must be used in 80% to 90% of the installed capacity. There will also be water treatment station in the mining area. Day expects the license to be issued by the Secretariat of Environment of Pará still this semester and points out that the project Back Great, besides generating jobs, income and opportunities, develop training cycles of labor and local entrepreneurship. “The Beautiful Sun will promote the improvement of the quality of life, through the construction of a new urban center for the residents of the village hangover, cock and Ouro Verde, endowed with infrastructure and basic services, non-existent in the region today”.   Another point that it highlights is the collection of taxes “should surpass $ 500 million in 11 years”. Day believes in two public hearings (in September 2012 and January 2013), “the Beautiful Sun had the chance to present the project, questions and listen to the weights of local society”.

On risks related to the use of chemicals like cyanide (used in the separation of gold from other sites and not substances present in the ore), Day pointed out that this chemical element is still indispensable in its mining activities and the Beautiful Sun is a signatory of the International cyanide Management Code. This means that the company will be audited on a regular basis for monitoring of physical facilities, use of safety equipment, training of professionals and service providers, as well as other activities such as control of the acquisition, transport, handling and operation of cyanide.

He also ruled out the possibility that waste leaks can contaminate the environment. Second counts, the waste will be treated in metallurgical plant, before reaching the dam where it will accumulate. There, will continue under monitoring. “Accidents with dams that have occurred in the past were grounds for learning and development of engineering standards, construction and operation,” he said.

As for the handling of explosives during operations, Day said that the Beautiful Sun follows the Regulatory Standard (NR) 19 of the Ministry of labour, which deals with the safe storage, transport and use of these artifacts, authorized by the Brazilian Army. “Not every extraction will require the use of explosives,” he concluded.

The large numbers of Project Volta Grande

Gold extracted from the site for 11 years, from 2015: about 50 tons. On average, per year, must extract 4.6 tons. In 2010, the total production of gold in Brazil was 58 tonnes.

Total area: about 2 thousand hectares

Total investment: $ 1,076 credentialed media billion.

Estimated jobs created: about 2 thousand direct and indirect 600 at the peak of the works.

On the Beautiful Sun: “the Brazilian subsidiary of Beautiful Sun Mining Corporation belonging to Forbes & Manhattan Inc., a privately held Bank that develops mining projects around the world”.

Source: Environmental impact report (Rima)

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