Quilombo Communities Win Ban on Brazil Iron’s Mining in Bahia
Ever since London-based Brazil Iron acquired mining rights in Chapada Diamantina, Piatã, Bahia, in 2011, two Quilombola communities home to 150 families, have been dealing with explosions, water contamination and damage to their crops. Quilombolas are descendents of escaped enslaved Afro-Brazilians that live in Quilombo settlements. Now the company wants to expand operations from 600,000 tons of ore per year to 10 million tons a year.
Damage to homes
The detonations to extract iron ore have caused visible cracks to run through the walls of the homes of the residents of the two communities.
“These ore bombs are thundering through the whole house. There are times when even things in the house we see shaking. I'm afraid of [the house] falling down. I have the imagination of being asleep and one hour the house collapses for good.” — Leonisia Maria Ribeiro, resident of Bocaina
Contamination of the Veado waterfall
In 2020, a truck full of iron ore overturned on the road and contaminated a dam that provides the main drinking water supply above the Veado waterfall to the two communities. Even though the company conducted a clean up, residents are still afraid of the pollution. Wastewater from the mine also contaminates the three rivers that supply the rest of Bahia with water.
Contamination of Bebedouro spring
Bebedouro spring was a source of drinking water during times of drought. But tailings waste from the mines have turned the water, once crystal clear, into an unpleasant dirty brown color.
"For the company, the ore is valuable, but for us the source is priceless. Here is our whole life." — Catarina Silva, Quilombola resident
"This here has become an industrial area. It is no longer habitable as it used to be." — Solange Costa, daughter of one of the residents
After Repórter Brasil, a research organization, published an expose on the issue, the environmental agency in Bahia conducted an investigation and found at least 15 irregularities in the company's operations. On April 26, the agency imposed a temporary ban on mining activities. Brazil Iron expressed “deep surprise and disappointment” when the ban was imposed. The company estimates that the ban has cost them 4.4 million Brazilian Reals (US$920,000).
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