This chapter explores two types of extractivism. Depredatory extractivism means the unsustainable use of minerals or fossil fuels and the depletion of the biomass of forest and fisheries. Brazil exports meat, soybeans and iron ore at a large scale. This causes deforestation and also terrible tailing dams’ failures. On the contrary, sustainable extractivism would be carried out by “ecosystem peoples” like Chico Mendes, a seringueiro struggling for sustainable extractivist reserves who was killed in 1988 and became a symbol. In the Amazon region in Brazil many environmental defenders are killed. This chapter offers a “toxic tour” of Brazil and the Guianas. Some parts of large cities are urban hells but some rural areas have also become hells of environmental, racial and social iniquity, going back 500 years to the links to coloniality and racism, to the robbery of Indigenous land by the bandeirantes, to the slavery of Africans until 1888 and the plantation economy.


The world movements for environmental justice do not always use the words “environmental justice” as introduced in the USA in the 1980s (Bullard 1993). Brazil is a country where the term is used. The many struggles in Brazil produced a most valuable map of environmental and health injustices promoted by Marcelo Firpo Porto, Tania Pacheco, Jean Pierre Leroy and Diogo Rocha, sponsored by FIOCRUZ, a research organization in the Ministry of Health. 1 We share with them the view that we cannot escape the materiality of political ecology, and attribute conflicts only to social causes such as bad governance or to capitalist profit making, capital accumulation, coloniality and racism. The changing configurations of social metabolism are the main causes of environmental conflicts.

A note on the use of the word “extractivism” in Brazil's political ecology is also necessary. Starting in the 1980s, the defence of the rural commons was made in the name of extractivism, what we would call “sustainable extractivism”. An example is the union of seringueiros, rubber tree tappers, with Chico Mendes. The seringueiros did not destroy the forest; they preserved it against the cattle ranchers that burned it and turned it into pastures for the production of meat. Sustainable extractivism was opposed to unsustainable production. At the institutional level, after Chico Mendes’ death in 1988, several large reservas extrativistas (extractive reserves, RESEX) were formed in the Amazon region.

Similarly, if mangroves are destroyed by commercial shrimp production, they could be defended by turning them into communal RESEX. There is then sustainable extractivism carried out by “ecosystems people”, to use Gadgil's and Guha's term in India. This is a different use of the word extractivism than in the previous chapters: the “depredatory extractivism”, described and theorized by Gudynas, Svampa, Alberto Acosta, Horacio Machado, meaning the unsustainable use of minerals or exhaustible fossil fuels, and the depletion of the biomass of forests and fisheries. Brazil's economy is based on depredatory extractivism (iron ore and soybeans for export on a very large scale) more than on the sustainable extractivism of Chico Mendes. Growth and changes in social metabolism, and socio-ecological conflicts are two sides of the same coin.

Sometimes, the Latin American definition of “extractivism” is seen as too limited, and there are “Northern” attempts at appropriation of the word for entirely new conceptual areas, from the digital and intellectual realm to the finance of urban speculation. I remain with the ecologically, materially grounded Latin American definition of Gudynas, Svampa, Acosta.

In this chapter, I take again “a sample from the sample”, relying on my own knowledge of a country I visited many times and where I lived for one full year in the 1970s, teaching and learning at UNICAMP, in São Paulo. I have also added cases from the Guianas. The p. 420guidebook for our “toxic tour” will be the EJAtlas. The itineraries and stops could be multiplied with knowledgeable guides, friends and colleagues: Felipe Milanez, Beatriz Saes, José Augusto Pádua, Marcelo Firpo Porto. New abuses and conflicts are arising all the time at the commodity extraction frontiers. I shall start with a terrible case, the failure of the tailings dam in Brumadinho iron ore mine belonging to the Vale company in 2019 that followed on the failure of the tailings dam in Mariana in 2015 (both in Minas Gerais).

Map of the states of Brazil (elabueloeduca).
Figure 19.1

Map of the states of Brazil

Source:  elabueloeduca
Environmental conflicts in Brazil and The Guianas (A. Grimaldos).
Figure 19.2

Environmental conflicts in Brazil and the Guianas

Source:  A. Grimaldos


Brumadinho and Samarco 2

In 2015 the tailing dams failure in the Samarco iron ore mine in Mariana (Minas Gerais) belonging to the Vale and BHP Billiton companies, caused outrage because of loss of human lives and heavy pollution in the Rio Doce. Only four years later, a larger human-environmental p. 421 p. 422tragedy took place not far away. Não foi acidente. Foi crime (“It was no accident. It was a crime”). On 25 January 2019, the Articulação Internacional dos Atingidos e Atingidas pela Vale announced: “This afternoon, two dams located in the Córrego do Feijão community, in Brumadinho, metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte (MG), collapsed”. Nearly 300 people were killed in the foretold collapse of the tailing dams of the Vale mining company. Most of them were employees working or having lunch. On 31 January, Carta Capital emotionally wrote that

murdered people are victims of a selective justice system that has so far failed to arrest Vale executives who had already killed in (the tailings dam disaster of) Mariana. And the murders were committed with cruelty. They killed without giving these people a chance to defend themselves, and by asphyxiation, they buried people alive in the mud.

Indeed, in 2015, another tailing dam collapsed in the nearby city of Mariana. It resulted in 19 deaths and hundreds of displaced. By 2022 there was still a court case in London against BHP Billiton for their involvement in the collapse of the Mariana dam in 2015, which released toxic mining waste 640 km along the Rio Doce. Krenak Indigenous people are among the claimants.

In Brumadinho an elegant guesthouse called Pousada Nova Estância was also completely swept away along with 38 staff and guests. Its owner was Marcio Mascarenhas, who had posted a strong complaint against the mine on Facebook one year prior to the catastrophe. However, as so often, environmental damage was not social-class neutral ‒ the majority of those killed were employees and manual workers of the Vale company.

The Córrego do Feijão mine is one of four in Vale's Paraopeba complex. It produced 26 million tonnes of iron ore in 2017. According to Clara Paiva Izidoro, a spokesperson for the local movement Águas de Casa Branca: “We had already recognized that several dams were at risk and this is related to small seismic tremors that are happening in the region”. Together with the Brazilian movement for those affected by dams (MAB) and other movements, they had carried out many actions against the granting of mining permissions, submitting petitions signed by tens of thousands. Another argument was the encroachment of mining on the Parque Estadual de Serra do Rola Moça. They were also appealing to secure the dam against failure. They were regularly dismissed by the authorities and the company.

On the contrary, the expansion of Vale's activities in Brumadinho had been approved in 2018, through a faster environmental licensing, in a single phase instead of the usual three. This was due to a reduction of environmental licensing stages, signed by the Secretary of Environment of Minas Gerais in 2017. The dams at Córrego do Feijão had their level lowered from six (highest risk) to four (lower risk). The Movimento pelas Serras e Águas de Minas denounced a conflict of interest of the Secretary. Moreover, other threatening tailing dams in the region include Conceição do Mato Dentro belonging to Anglo American. A legislative project to make regulation of tailings dams stricter in Minas Gerais after the Samarco (Mariana) disaster was stopped for three years in the legislative assembly. This text provided for an insurance fund and forbade the method of increasing tailings dams by alteamento, allowing the dam to go upwards by steps. This legislative proposal was vetoed.

The Vale company is responsible for directly killing many of its own employees in the Brumadinho disaster, on top of all the other disasters it has caused in Brazil and around the world. Its management is liable for criminal charges. We published an article on the Vale p. 423company around the world (Beatriz Saes et al. 2021, Chapter 27). Funnily enough, in the 2018 ranking of the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), meant as a guide for investors, Vale was among the top ten. After the Brumadinho disaster, the company was suspended for one year from the CHRB. However, already before 2019, the Articulação dos Atingidos e Atingidas pela Vale had denounced the danger of reducing costs in its operations, thus expanding the risks of accidents, at the company's shareholders meeting. It is reported that when Fabio Schvartsman became CEO in 2017, he suggested a motto for the company: “Mariana, never again”. How Vale's terrible reputation on human and environmental rights translates into market value is not obvious.

Gandarela, Minas Gerais 3

Compared to the previous tragedies, the following conflict was played on a lower key, and ended with what seems to be a provisional success. The Gandarela mountain range is not far from Brumadinho and Mariana and the capital of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte. The area contains the towns of Caeté, Santa Barbara, Barao de Cocais, Rio Acima and Itabirito. Gandarela presents the largest and best preserved canga ecosystem of the Iron Quadrangle (the mining region of Minas Gerais). This type of savannah has few remnants in Brazil, as it is often destroyed by mining. It is an important recharge area for aquifers and, therefore, coincides with great underground water potential which is important for the formation of river springs and also directly used for public water supply in the region of Belo Horizonte. For this reason, environmentalists even created the term Aquifer Quadrangle to oppose the official name Iron Quadrangle.

In 2009, Vale started planning for the Apollo iron mine project in this area of great ecological importance. The Gandarela Mountain Range would produce 24 million tons of iron ore per year for 17 years. Before the environmental licensing process, residents of the region, social movements and researchers prepared a proposal for the creation of the Gandarela Mountain Range National Park. The proposal was based on studies by researchers from the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Federal University of Ouro Preto. It was sent to the official Chico Mendes Institute of Biodiversity (ICMBio), which finalized it in October 2010. They emphasized the importance of fauna, flora and water resources and proposed an area of 38,210 ha. The ICMBio proposal paralyzed the environmental licensing process of Apollo Mine at the end of 2010.

At the same time, diverse social movements opposing the implementation of the Apollo Mine, such as the Movement for the Preservation of Gandarela Mountain Range and the Movement of Mountain Ranges and Waters, organized several actions and petitions to the State Public Prosecutor, such as an event in April 2010 called “Viva Gandarela!” to call attention to the impacts of the Apollo Project. The event included an ecological walk followed by a “hug” for the Gandarela Mountain Range. One element in the resistance was the presence of paleontological caves used by giant tatus (armadillos).

Serra do Gandarela National Park was created by the Ministry of Environment. However, the established contours were more in the interest of mining than of the movements promoting its creation. Moreover, the villages in the Gandarela region and in the buffer zone of the park were threatened by tailing dams from other neighbouring iron ore mines, especially in the municipality of Rio Acima. A possible rupture of this dam could irreparably impact the Ribeirão da Prata, the main watercourse, and jeopardize the water supply for Belo Horizonte and its metropolitan area.p. 424

For the time being, the alliance of urban environmental activists managed to stop the project. The contested values in this case are the production of iron ore for less than 20 years as an essential metabolic element for the steel industry and its monetary value, against the value of irreplaceable cangas as ecosystems, the risk to human health and the environment, the damage to water recharge and the paleontological value of tatu caves.


The Guaíba Mine threatens nearby environmental reserves including the Jacuí River Delta and livelihoods of local farmers. It is part of a mining drive near Porto Alegre, a city made globally famous by the World Social Forums. As a response to the meetings of the economic and political world elite in Davos, the first and third were held in Porto Alegre in 2001 and 2003 when the Workers’ Party (PT) was strong. Environmental issues were present – I remember a “tribunal” on the ecological debt with Ivonne Yanez (Acción Ecológica), and where I met Medha Patkar (Narmada Bachao Andolan). Marina Silva, who had fought alongside Chico Mendes (in Acre) and was a minister in President Lula's government, was at the time revered by the crowd. although the PT itself was never an environmentalist political party.

There was a moment in 1999 when it looked like the PT would be able to stop the introduction of transgenic soybeans in Rio Grande do Sul. I was then writing The Environmentalism of the Poor and realized that this was a brave and lost struggle. Whether the current mining onslaught will be stopped is more promising. As described by Marcos Todt in late 2019, there were four main mining projects to be stopped.

Três Estradas Project

“Pro-mining” Bolsonaro was supporting Australian company Aguia Resources Limited, associated with Canadian group Forbes & Manhattan, in its proposal for an open-pit phosphate mine and tailings dam in Lavras do Sul. The site threatens the Pampa biome, which is 85 per cent grassland. The region is home to more than 4,000 families and several Indigenous peoples. The National Human Rights Council recommended the annulment of the Preliminary Licence already granted to the project. Reasons include bribery. Two university-conducted technical reports found omissions and critical errors in the EIA.

Caçapava do Sul Project

The Pampas are also endangered by a copper, lead and zinc mining project by the Camaquã River in Caçapava do Sul, considered one of the seven natural wonders of Rio Grande do Sul. This project is proposed by Nexa Resources S/A. Besides water contamination risks, agriculture and livestock may also be affected at farms preserving cultural heritage. Nearby cities in the same hydrographic basin are currently resisting the project.

Retiro Project

In São José do Norte, Canadian-funded Rio Grande Mineração S/A has proposed ilmenite, rutile and zircon extraction in a region between Lagoa de Patos and the Atlantic Ocean that p. 425the Ministry of Environment designated as highly vulnerable. Ilmenite is an ore for titanium (Chapter 15). The project threatens agriculture and artisanal fishing activities in the region. Locals strongly oppose the project and have filed legal cases to the Federal Public Ministry of Brazil exposing violations of the right to information and public participation in the environmental licensing process. In 2019, the movement We Don’t Want Mining in São José do Norte drafted a law banning mining in the region. The City Council passed the law and it was enacted by the mayor. The population continues to mobilize against the company.

The Guaíba Coal Mine

The opposition to the Guaíba coal mine is an obvious candidate to join the ranks of the world Blockadia or LFFU movements (Chapter 16). The Guaíba mine is a coal, sand and gravel mining project in the process of obtaining an environmental licence to be installed in an area of 4,373 ha in the municipalities of Charqueadas and Eldorado del Sul. The Brazilian company Copelmi, together with Chinese and US investments, aims to extract an estimated 166 million tons of coal over the course of 23 years. The mine would contaminate the entire Jacuí Delta region. The mine would open 1.5 km from the Jacuí River, responsible for more than 80 per cent of the water that reaches Lake Guaíba, which supplies Porto Alegre. The project also envisages the lowering of the water table, the diversion of the Pesquero and Jacaré streams, and evicting the farmers of the Apolonio de Carvalho settlement and other inhabitants. This settlement is responsible for one of the largest productions of organic rice in the region. Mining would start 3 km away from the site, and after seven years would invade the farming area.

The project was in the environmental licensing phase from 2014 to 2019. A public hearing to discuss the project was held in March 2019. The day before the hearing, the Rio Grande do Sul Environmental Protection Foundation (FEPAM) requested supplements to the EIA from Copelmi. Lacking were the alternatives on the location of the mine, clarification on the interference on the water tablet on the wells of the communities, evaluation of soil erosion and review of the study of the vulnerability of the aquifer. Environmental agencies were able to obtain a court order so that the public hearing would not occur before the technical completion of the studies, but FEPAM itself appealed and the hearing was held.

In April 2019, the Provincial and Federal Public Prosecutors sent a joint recommendation to FEPAM to hold at least one more public hearing. In addition, a request signed by councillors from Porto Alegre asked FEPAM for a public hearing to be held in Porto Alegre.

A Conclusion: the Mega-Mining Combat Committee

In response to possible social and environmental collapse in the region caused by the mining projects, the Mega-Mining Combat Committee in Rio Grande do Sul (CCM/RS) was founded in 2019. With the slogan “Yes to life, no to destruction”, the initial goal was to raise awareness that the battle against mega-mining is not only environmental. It is an intersectional battle. The CCM/RS successfully unified around 120 organizations, including environmental and social associations, trade unions, groups of students, farmers and research groups. This mobilization empowered the movement and overcame political and hegemonic barriers that often marginalize environmental activism. The CCM/RS has since been protesting, promoting and participating in debates and objecting to the EIAs.p. 426

By March 2020, the issue was whether mining remained a priority activity despite the alarm over the pandemic. Two years later, Marcos Todt wrote to tell us:

that we were able to permanently stop two of the megamining projects they wanted to implement in Rio Grande do Sul! The Guaíba Mine, which would be the largest open pit mine in Brazil, 16km from downtown Porto Alegre, was adjourned definitively by FEPAM (environmental agency), and Nexa Resources “gave up” the development in Caçapava do Sul! That is, we have already defeated two of those four projects included in the article I wrote in The Ecologist (…)! The Committee to Combat Megamining in Rio Grande do Sul was fundamental to this (a short history of the Committee is in issue 59 of the journal Ecología Política).


This is a women's movement against agribusiness and the enclosure of the commons in the state of Maranhão, 3,000 km north of Rio Grande do Sul. For over 30 years, they struggled for recognition and access to communal resources, facing pressures by ever-expanding soy, eucalyptus and cattle business. This conflict combines intersectional grievances and claims for environmental justice, agrarian justice and gender justice. An estimated 350,000 people (mostly women) of about 15 ethnic groups are involved in activities related to babassu (big coconut in the tupi-guarani language), making of quebradeiras one of Brazil's largest traditional groups living from the sustainable extractivism of forest products – an “ecosystem people”.

Quebradeiras are the breakers of the babaçu coconut. It can be used in a variety of ways, ranging from vegetable oil, chocolate, bread, ice cream and cosmetics, to the manufacturing of footwear, thatches, timber and crafts, and the production of a highly nutritious flour, charcoal and more. Although it is often their only economically valued activity, quebradeiras consider babassu breaking not only as a profession but a central component of life and identity. They typically join their families at the coconut gathering and processing as young girls and continue the practice until old age, accompanied by singing and an honouring of the babassu palm as ‘mother’ that provides their daily rice, beans and farofa.

Maranhão's agricultural sector and land use is characterized by the dominance of industrial cattle farming, incentivized by economic policies and cheap agricultural credits in the 1970s, as well as by commercial monocultures of eucalyptus and soy, increasingly superseding rice and family agriculture since the late 1990s. Babassu, in contrast, is of declining economic importance, but has been practised by communities for centuries and still takes place in almost every municipality. Besides Maranhão, where 93 per cent of all babassu is collected, the babassu palm is also spread in Tocantins, Piauí and Pará.

Babassu sustainable extractivism, as a subsistence practice that relies on land as a common, is directly opposed to the unsustainable logic of modern industrial agriculture. It therefore not only has a crucial role when it comes to environmental preservation but also for the involved social actors, offering what is often the only available source of income for a significant number of women from historically subaltern, disadvantaged groups of society. In fact, babassu is closely linked to the issue of colonially inherited inequality in access to land.

Today, the larger part of the babassu trees are located within large fazendas (farms) and lands that have been bought or grabbed in the past and are now claimed as private property. This has led to an increasing enclosure of land and violent confrontations as communities’ p. 427access to babassu trees is being more and more restricted. In many municipalities, quebradeiras encounter ranchers demanding payments for accessing the trees or completely preventing access through fences (many electrified) – a result of past public policies aimed at incentivizing cattle ranching, soy and eucalyptus plantations. Quebradeiras and other traditional communities also face other forms of intimidation, including death threats, violence and sexual assaults.

As some communities report, there were no problems in collecting babassu coconuts and no barbed wires in the past, whereas today quebradeiras have to rush to avoid being caught by the landowners’ watchmen. Cattle ranchers, on the other hand, argue that the fences are necessary to hold cattle in vast areas. Owners of plantations can easily obtain environmental permits, including the authorization for deforestation, as long as they agree to afforest in other locations, avoiding net loss of native tree species.

There are areas reaching floodplains, for example the Monte Alegre quilombo in the municipality of São Luís Gonzaga, Coquelândia in the municipality of Imperatriz, the Santa Rosa community in Piauí, as well as the Baixada Maranhense microregion. Although floodplains and waters are recognized as public lands, fences have been partly built in the name of conservation but also by ranchers of water buffaloes, also affecting fishers. In Southern Pará, by contrast, quebradeiras face competition from large industrial charcoal producers.

Grassroots initiatives supported quebradeiras against ranchers as early as the 1970s, and communities also received support from the Catholic Church and NGOs, while collective organization of quebradeiras started in the late 1980s. By today, after decades of struggle and marginalization, this has led to improvements in rights and recognition, a process particularly shaped by the Movimento Interestadual das Quebradeiras de Coco Babaçu (MIQCB) in 1991.

A major success was the adoption of Lei de Babaçu Livre (Free Babassu Law) in Maranhão Lago do Junco municipality in 1997. The law basically guarantees free communal access to babaçu trees even if they are located on private land, and also prohibits the use of agrochemicals near the trees and their destruction. So far, 14 more municipalities have followed the example and Tocantins adopted a law on babaçu protection at state level. However, some farmers have aimed to repeal it. Only in a few areas are the established rights enforced. Despite these difficulties, the MIQCB continues to push for legislative initiatives at several scales, including a national law for free access to babassu (PL 231/2007) under discussion for many years. Moreover, the MIQCB became the central coordinating movement for cooperatives, associations, family producers and communities, and a public voice to denounce rights violations and the logging of palm trees, regularly organizing campaigns and street demonstrations. In doing so, they achieved certain political recognition over the years. The MIQCB collaborates with other NGOs and civil society and receives support from donors such as the EU and the Ford Foundation.

With increasingly violent confrontations, quebradeira mobilizations focused on the issue of land enclosures and illegal, electrified fences. Between 2015 and 2018, the MIQCB reported conflicts in more than 20 locations but the movement regularly received death threats after denunciations, leaving many communities in fear. In 2018, following a protest and the occupation of the Instituto de Terras do Maranhão through quebradeiras and quilombolas, state authorities also took action and started the Baixada Livre Operation to take down about 10 km of electric fence. However, the operation was not sufficient to free the whole area. In the beginning of 2018, the coordinator of the MIQCB movement Francisca Nascimento narrowly escaped an attempted murder in Piauí. Shortly after, a fisher of the Jacaré community p. 428was killed by an electrified fence. Later in the same year, two children were killed in Araioses allegedly by a rancher.

Quebradeira women have also become involved in wider networks for Indigenous, quilombola and traditional peasant rights in Maranhão. Their mobilizations are now linked to other struggles, for example for the recognition of quilombola lands or the opposition to development projects jeopardizing water resources. The grassroots movement has strengthened a new political identity among quebradeira communities, subsequently leading to an articulation of demands to overcome subordination to land-owning ranchers. This has most notably triggered the revindication of traditionally used land, for example via agrarian reform or the establishment of sustainable extractivist reserves. An established motto of the movement is: Não existe babaçu livre com terra presa (There is no free babaçu with privately seized land).


Going to the northwest of Maranhão, through the Amazon River, we reach the Guianas lying between Venezuela, the states of Roraima, Pará and Amapá in Brazil and the Atlantic Ocean. These are the territories of Guyana (capital city, Georgetown), Suriname (Paramaribo) and French Guiana (Cayenne).

The Montagne d’Or mine is one of the largest open cast gold mine projects in the world. There is a strong dispute on this project. According to the social movements, the Russian mining company Nordgold was determined to launch the destructive project. Nordgold was established as Severstal Gold, a subsidiary of Severstal, owned by oligarch Alexey Mordashov. By 2017, President Macron and former Minister Nicolas Hulot appeared to take opposite views on the issue: Macron in favour and Hulot against. Guyane is to all effects a French colony in Amazonian territory.

Led by a Russian-Canadian consortium, this highly controversial project directly threatens two exceptional biological reserves. Environmental advocates and local associations are calling for its immediate halt. The project would be much larger than the often-clandestine small mines of most Guyanese gold prospectors: 2.5 km long, 500 to 800 m wide and 400 m deep. To access the mine site, an abandoned 125-km road from St Laurent du Maroni must first be rebuilt. The new road will open opportunities to additional illegal activities such as deforestation, illegal wildlife and narco-trafficking, clandestine gold mining posing a threat to Indigenous groups. Millions and millions of cubic metres of minerals will be transported and treated with cyanide to extract gold in 15 years. The cyanide ore processing plant will consume no less than 20 per cent of the power generated in French Guiana. Gold is a “preciosity” more than a bulk commodity (Chapter 26). Industrial requirements account for only 8 per cent of gold currently mined. The rest of gold goes partly for jewels or it goes into bank vaults.

French Guiana includes a still-intact part of the Amazonian Forest. The mining site is located in a protected area known as the Integral Biological Reserve of Lucifer Dékou-Dékou, created in 2012. It is reported to have 200 bird species, 39 bat species, 39 snake species, 39 amphibian species, 1,000 vascular plants and 110 protected and threatened species. The site also hosts rare or endemic plants and fishes. Moreover, procedures requiring recourse to the Advisory Council of the Amerindian and Bushinengue Indigenous populations were not respected. As a reminder, France adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, although it has not yet ratified Convention 169 of ILO. The “Or de Question” p. 429collective (literally, “Gold out of Question”), an alliance of local and national NGOs, called on the government to cancel the project immediately. Among the precedents in Guiana, there was the failure in August 1995 of the tailings dam at the Omai Mine, spilling cyanide, heavy metals and other pollutants into the Essequibo River. In December 2018, after a petition by the Organization of the Native Nations of Guiana, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) reprimanded France for its human rights violations against the Indigenous peoples of French Guiana. A few months after the Committee issued its decision, the French executive announced that they had abandoned the mining project, a victory for all of those who opposed it, especially Amerindians.

Alexey Mordashov was sanctioned in 2022 by the EU because of his support for Russia in the Ukraine war, in his turn he launched an arbitration suit for €4 billion against the French state because he was prevented from mining in Guyane.


Suriname is a former colony, acquired by the Dutch from the English. Near to the west of the Montagne d’Or, the Saramaka are one of the Maroon people, descendants of African refugees who escaped slavery in the Americas. They are numerous on the Caribbean coast and islands and characterized for signing treaties and negotiating their lands with some colonial authorities. Since the 1990s, Saramakas have been threatened by multinational logging and mining companies which were extracting resources with the approval of the State. There have been continuous negative effects associated with the construction of the 189-MW Afobaka Dam in 1960 (that flooded 50 per cent of the Saramaka territory), and concessions affecting Saramaka lands.

Due to the above, in October 2000, the Saramaka Authorities Association, Forest Peoples Programme, Twelve “Captains” (traditional authorities) and David Padilla (former Executive Secretary to the IACHR) asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to declare the State of Suriname guilty of violating the rights of juridical personality of the Saramaka people. They additionally requested measures of reparation and the reimbursement of the costs and expenses incurred in processing the case at the national level and before the international proceedings. As in the Montagne d’Or case, indigeneity plays a double role. On the one hand, Indigenous people live in “remote” locations, which become commodity extraction frontiers threatening their habitats and survival. On the other hand, they are sometimes able to appeal to their own identities and to the international protection which they themselves have won collectively because of a worldwide “Indigenous revival” (Chapter 25).

In May 2007, the audience was celebrated in the International Court of Human Rights. Robert Goodland (a former officer of the World Bank who became an activist on retirement, Chapter 28), Richard Price and other international experts testified. The Court concluded that the State had violated the rights to property, to juridical personality and to judicial protection of the Saramaka people. In 2009, the Saramaka People won the Goldman Environmental Prize because of their legal victory. Even after this victory, according to the Forest Peoples Programme, the State of Suriname has not taken the steps to accomplish what the Court indicated in 2007. Contrariwise, the government has entered into activities that could jeopardize the survival of the Saramaka, such as mineral concessions including gold mines and logging.p. 430


Going back to Brazil, this recurring conflict on land demarcation took place in Roraima, north of its capital Boa Vista and at the border with Guiana. After decades of repression and struggle for their rights, the Indigenous communities of Raposa Serra do Sol obtained recognition of their territory in 2005. Still, the defence of their land and human rights remains a hot matter. In 2018, president Bolsonaro threatened to undo the recognition, and by April 2020, the situation with the coronavirus led Indigenous peoples to block access to their territories.

The Indigenous people of Raposa Serra do Sol (the Makuxi, Wapichana, Tuarepang, Ingarik and Patamana communities) fought for 30 years in order to restore and protect their rights to ancestral lands, threatened by fazendeiros and garimpeiros (cattle breeders, rice producers and small gold miners). Land grabbing is coupled with military deployment and recurrent violent repression of the communities under the guise of establishing Brazilian army presence on its borders. The commodity extraction frontier is reinforced by the military presence at the political frontier. During the General Assembly of Tuxauas in 2002, the Indigenous communities’ leaders pointed to the diverse activities penetrating their territory without their consent, amongst which they cited the illegal gold mining, landowners, the construction of a military compound in Uiramutà and an electricity grid. On top of that, two national parks (Monte Roraima and Serra Da Mocidade) prevent the Indigenous communities from having exclusive access to the natural resources. The Indigenous communities called in an open letter to the authorities for the official delimitation of their territory. This was done in 2005 by Lula's presidential decree; by doing so, it also granted Indigenous communities autonomy and implied landowners’ evacuation of the area.

Still, the Roraima State government and the landowners appealed to the Supreme Court, contesting the delimitation of Raposa Serra do Sol as an Indigenous territory. By the beginning of 2009, the Supreme Court satisfied the Indigenous communities’ land rights. Nevertheless, the decision was followed by 19 conditions restricting those very same rights. The national sovereignty principle is placed as a priority on top of Indigenous rights. In 2013, a gathering in Borro commemorated the Supreme Court decision of 2009. It was also the opportunity to protest against the proposed constitutional amendment (PEC) 215. The amendment would transfer the decision to demarcate Indigenous lands from the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) to the Congress. The PEC 215 raised strong and nation-wide contestation. It was finally rejected by the end of 2015.


The Pitinga mining complex, in the state of Amazonas, is another emblematic instance of Brazil's historical injustice against Indigenous population and the systematic downplaying of environmental pollution and the risks associated with tailings dams. The Pitinga mine, in the municipality of Presidente Figueiredo, is deemed to be the world's largest undeveloped cassiterite deposit, the most important source of tin. Mining operations controversially started in 1981 by Taboca S.A., initially a subsidiary of the influential Paranapanema mining group. Since 2009, it is owned by the Peruvian company Minsur. In addition, the mine bears large deposits of uranium, tantalum and niobium. The latest are extracted from coltan, mainly for the electronics industry.p. 431

Interest in mining in the region started in the 1940s, but its isolation prevented extraction. The construction of the BR-174 highway was pushed forward in 1967 as part of a wider economic development strategy of the Brazilian military government. This caused violent conflict with the Indigenous Waimiri Atroari group (self-denominated Kinja). Work on the Balbina dam started and flooded a vast area of rainforest. During the construction works, large cassiterite deposits were found in the region, and with the road inauguration in 1979, miners linked to the Paranapanema group started to invade the Pitinga area, which was located within the demarcated Indigenous territory.

A decree issued by the military government in 1981 declared an area of 10,345 km2 to be of public utility for expropriation. Meanwhile, Paranapanema started cartographic manipulations through lobbying within FUNAI and the National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM), leading to a second decree that dissolved 526,800 ha of the Indigenous territory to regularize mining explorations. Thus, Taboca started its operations while it was claimed that no more Indigenous population existed in the occupied area.

In the following era, Paranapanema held a de facto monopoly which obliged garimpeiros (informal miners) to exclusively sell them their production. In 1985, Taboca started construction of the Pitinga hydroelectric dam on the river to cover the energy demands of the mining operations. The company also started to seek agreements with Indigenous leaders to obtain access to areas in exchange for payments and gifts, leading to a new demarcation of Waimiri Atroari territory in 1987.

Since the start of its operations, Taboca has frequently been accused of impacting Indigenous livelihoods, in particular with the pollution of the Alalaú river, and for denying responsibility. Since the 1980s, Indigenous organizations like CIMI and COAIB as well as the Waimiri Atroari Resistance Support Movement pointed to the company's pollution of the Igarapé Tiaraju, a tributary of the Alalaú. Between 1987 and 1992, the situation was aggravated as dam collapses led to the release of cassiterite tailings, immediately affecting 600 people. Critics argued that Taboca has been systematically preventing public control. There was also uncertainty about the actual amount of mined material and an assumingly high loss of taxes. Moreover, Taboca was accused of having buried radioactive waste. Despite symptoms such as loss of teeth and hair, respiratory diseases, leukaemia and presence of leishmaniasis, authorities did not take action.

The Waimiri Atroari have repeatedly demanded compensation from the Paranapanema group. Particularly controversial was an access road built illegally in 1982 through Indigenous territory, connecting the mine to the highway. Paranapanema was obliged to compensate the Kinja community, but the Indigenous group remained unsatisfied and started a series of protests in 1996. Blocking the access road, a group of 110 armed Kinja claimed: “Who does not pay, will not pass”. After one month, Paranapanema, whose shares started to fall, agreed to compensation payments – however still less than the demanded 0.5 per cent of the monthly value generated by the mine. The mine access was again blocked by Kinja members in October 2004.

Until 2006, tin ore was extracted exclusively from alluvial deposits which became more and more exhausted. In 2004, Paranapanema received financing of US$ 55 million from the Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social to initiate a transition to primary rock extraction. Then, tin, niobium and tantalum ferroalloy production increased significantly, and Minsur also considered exploiting uranium. Recently, the Pitinga hydroelectric and mining complex has caused new controversies concerning the stability of its dams. In p. 432November 2015, published videos showed leaks. However, Taboca issued technical reports and declared the dams safe.

Researchers are not allowed to carry out measurements in Pitinga, while authorities like the Instituto de Proteção Ambiental do Amazonas (IPAAM) have for a long time failed to assess the data provided by Taboca. Countrywide public pressure only increased after a major dam collapse in Brumadinho in January 2019. Already before, local researchers and the environmental commission of the Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil ‒ Amazonas demanded better monitoring.


North-east of the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, along the coast where the Atlantic rainforest used to display its splendour, many areas have been lost to eucalyptus plantations for cellulose exports in the state of Espírito Santo. The Brazilian company Aracruz Celulose S.A, later called Fibria Celulose, is the largest producer of bleached eucalyptus pulp in the world. The company owns more than 320,000 ha of eucalyptus plantations in Espírito Santo State and has destroyed more than 50,000 ha of Atlantic rainforest. In the north of Espírito Santo, Aracruz seized 11,000 ha of Indigenous territory, driving 8,500 families out of their homes and restricting access to food and water. Local communities claim the recovery of their ancestral lands.

The Atlantic rainforest in the region completely disappeared after 40 years of eucalyptus plantations, and Indigenous movements of Guarani and Tupinikim peoples (together with quilombola peoples) struggled for years to protect and to get back their territories. The recovery of their land is coupled with the revival of traditional food production. Such struggles over the land provoke violent altercations and Fibria Celulose's guards have murdered locals.

Moreover, since April 2015, the commercialization of genetically modified eucalyptus was authorized in Brazil. This approval raised the movements’ opposition in Brazil and world-wide, pointing to the increasing environmental risks such as water shortages and the quality of honey from bees. Other cases of eucalyptus conflicts in Brazil appear in the EJAtlas and also, more extensively, in FIOCRUZ's map of environmental and health conflicts in Brazil. Tree plantations are not true forests. The Brazilian struggles against the “green deserts” (Chapters 21 and 23) contain many lessons for similar conflicts against this invasive plant elsewhere in the world.


One of the most remarkable cases recorded in the EJAtlas is that of the mine São Félix do Amianto. It was opened between 1939 and 1967 in Bom Jesus da Serra and Poções, Bahia. The company Eternit belonged to Stephan Schmidheiny, who was sentenced in court because of the manufacturing of asbestos in a factory in Casale Monferrato, Italy (Chapter 20). The mine was operated by the firm SAMA and St. Gobain, and by the Swiss company Eternit, which years later still operated an asbestos factory in Simões Filho. There are many outstanding claims asking for compensation from workers from the mine and the factory. There is a Brazilian Association of People Exposed to Asbestos (ABREA) trying to denounce the blatant corporate social irresponsibility of the firms manufacturing asbestos for decades. It is p. 433a classic case of “late damages after early warnings”, working-class and citizen environmentalism (Mazzeo 2018).

Brazil is reported to be still the third largest producer of asbestos used in manufactured products, building materials, and the automobile industry. The WHO classifies asbestos as a carcinogen and it was completely banned in Europe in 2005. By the end of the 1930s, the asbestos consumed in Brazil was imported. Exploration and exploitation began in 1940 when the Anonymous Society of Asbestos Mining (SAMA) owned by Saint Gobain (France) settled in Poções, in São Félix do Amianto. The mine operated until 1967. The same year, the company SAMA moved to Minaçu, where it began to explore the mine “Cana Brava” belonging to Eternit. Since then, Minaçu is known as the “capital of asbestos”.

ABREA records that many people have died of respiratory diseases and cancer, especially mesothelioma. In the so-called “bed of dust”, where the ore was separated, workers, including many women, were covered with dust. Evandra Vieira Brito, who lost her husband (ex-employee of SAMA) to cancer in 2009, remembers: “There were about 20 girls covered with dust. They all died vomiting blood”. After asbestos was banned in Europe, a draft-law initiative was proposed to the Brazilian parliament in order to ban the extraction, industrialization, importation, transportation and storage in Brazil. Nevertheless, SAMA and the local government of Minaçu claimed that this was one of the best sources of local employment. According to a report by the Ministry of Health, 2,400 people have already died from asbestos-related diseases between 2000 and 2010. As the disease can arrive many years after the exposure, this number will only increase.


In 1976, a mineral deposit of uranium was discovered in the municipality of Santa Quitéria. In 2006, the federal government wanted to explore the deposit. The aim of the Brazilian Nuclear Industries (INB) was to extract uranium for energy and phosphate for the agroindustry. The uranium would be for the new nuclear energy plant in Rio de Janeiro (Angra III). In 2009, Brazilian Nuclear Industries and Galvani created the Consortium Santa Quitéria for the investment of the project called Mina de Itatiaia. Yara (Norway) joined the group. This mine is the largest reserve of uranium in the country and its economic viability depends on the associated phosphate exploration.

By the end of 2008, rural communities with support of the University of Ceará, agrarian and environmental justice organizations such as Vía Campesina, Rede Justiça Ambiental, Cáritas Brazil, Cactus Organization, Instituto Bioma, Movimento Sem Terra (MST), Articulação Antinuclear Brasileira (AAB), Coletivo Urucum, Brazil Human Rights Fund, Cáritas Diocesana de Sobral do Ceará and Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) started a platform to oppose the mine. The main causes were the high health risk and the high level of water use in a water scarce zone. In 2011, the accident in Fukushima strengthened the opposition. The organizations mentioned created the Articulação Antinuclear do Ceará (Anti-nuclear network) to debate around the uncertain risks, social and environmental impacts of the mine, helping the mobilization of communities. As part of the Environmental Licence required, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) called for public audiences to explain the project and offer different types of hypothetical benefits.p. 434

Several master's theses from the University of Ceará analyzed the potential environmental risks of the project based on the environmental impact assessments produced by INB and Galvani. According to the activists, these analyses were sent to IBAMA, public prosecutor offices and a human rights office in Ceará. In September 2016, IBAMA issued technical advice against the project based on hydric non-feasibility, lack of mitigation measures in case of radioactive contamination and lack of government agencies’ green light. This technical advice, however, was stopped by IBAMA's executive board. Social movements, NGOs, scientific networks and others jointly organized a campaign in March 2017 entitled “Anti-Nuclear Ceará: in Defense of Life, Water and Towards Environmental Justice”. An open letter was written to IBAMA, asking to overrule the environmental licence process and calling for national and international support. The open letter points out that “Fortaleza inhabitants and the overall populations living along the roads through which the radioactive loads are to be transported remain unaware of the project's existence and have not been included in the project's discussions regarding the risks and impacts they are potentially facing”. The project has not started, although by 2019 and 2020 there were rumours of mining in the area under president Bolsonaro.


The demarcation of land for the Munduruku people and other communities stopped the São Luiz dam in the Tapajós River. This big victory for environmental justice challenged as well the future of other hydropower projects. On the Tapajós River, two major hydroelectric dams were under study; São Luiz do Tapajós and Jatobá dams would have a capacity of 6,133 MW and 2,338 MW respectively. The Brazilian government planned to invest 18 billion reals (around US$ 5.3 billion). As one of the central elements of the government's project to expand hydropower generation across the Amazon, the São Luiz do Tapajós dam was slated to be Brazil's second largest, after the controversial Belo Monte power plant. Together, the dams would flood 198,400 ha of land along the Tapajós, including large portions of the Amazonia and Juruena National Parks and the Itaituba National Forests. These dams would have significant impacts on Indigenous lands and communities throughout the Amazon. In total at least 40 more projects are on the way along the river, considered to be the “last frontier” of hydro expansion in the Amazon (Chapter 22, São Manuel dam).

EIAs were carried out by a consortium called “Grupo de Estudos Tapajós”, made up of Eletrobras, Eletronorte, Cemig, Copel, Camargo Corrêa, and transnational corporations like EDF, GDF SUEZ, Endesa Brasil and Neoenergia (Iberdrola). According to Greenpeace, “the (President Lula’s) government's Growth Acceleration Programme (PAC) aims to transform the Tapajós River into an industrial waterway and shipping hub, with the ultimate goal of allowing soybeans produced in Mato Grosso to be shipped to the Atlantic Ocean and onward to foreign consumer markets”. Greenpeace also commissioned an independent analysis of the EIA report prepared by CNEC WorleyParsons Engenharia S. A. on behalf of the Grupo de Estudos Tapajós. The review found lots of flaws in the process and argued that the report on the EIA was in effect “a marketing tool that fails to inform society, in an objective manner, about the consequences of the project and minimizes predicted impacts”.

Moreover, the political crisis at the end of Lula's presidency represented a time of instability and uncertainty over what was going to happen next. Added to this, a strategic development p. 435law, known as PLS 654/2015, was being debated in the senate. If approved, it could have significantly accelerated the licensing process, by reducing the environmental protections enshrined in Brazilian law, and eliminating the requirement for public consultation.

With an estimated population of 12,000 people spread across 128 villages, the Munduruku are the most numerous Indigenous group in the region. Other Indigenous groups also live there, as well as some 2,500 traditional riverside dwellers (ribeirinhos), along with more recent settlers and urban residents. The dam would flood a vast area, requiring the forced removal of Indigenous communities, an act that is strictly prohibited by the Brazilian constitution except in cases of epidemics or war. Women would also bear specific threats to their livelihood and lives, especially due to the sell-off of land by men, and by the immigration of outsiders for working in the construction sites. In fact, the dam would inundate around 7 per cent of the Munduruku territory, including a number of their sacred sites. The Greenpeace report also states that

Although the 1988 Federal Constitution forbids the removal of indigenous groups from their land except in the case of a disaster or in the interests of national sovereignty, the report of the EIA […] ignores this, while quoting a law dating back to the days of the military dictatorship to the effect that “the federal government can intervene in indigenous areas to carry out public works of interest to national development”. It also relies on a discredited map to downplay the extent of ribeirinho community land ownership in the area to be flooded.

In April 2016, IBAMA denied the environmental licence for the proposed São Luiz do Tapajós dam on the Tapajós River ‒ a decision seen as a victory by the Munduruku and the environmentalists.


Tucuruí, also in Pará, one of the world's largest hydroelectric dams, has displaced many people since the 1980s leaving communities in an ongoing struggle for compensation and land rights. It continues to produce cheap electricity for the export aluminium industry, mostly in Barcarena and São Luís. The construction on the Tocantins River started at the end of the 1970s under Brazil's military dictatorship. With the construction of the Tucuruí transmission line, the plant became a major hydroelectricity provider for the Northern Amazon region. Further extensions of the dam continued until the 2000s.

Located about 350 km from the state's capital Belém, it caused the flooding of an area of 3,014 km2 and displaced about 32,000 people, most of them quilombolas (afro-descendants), Indigenous people (Asurini, Gavião, Suruí, Parakanã, Xikrin, Guajará and Krikati groups), peasants and traditional riverside dwellers (ribeirinhos), who have since then been fighting for their territorial rights. Their struggle reveals the relations between infrastructural mega-projects and Brazil's conflictive agrarian and landless question.

After years of construction, the Tocantins River was eventually blocked with the inauguration of the dam in 1984 and is since then run by Eletronorte, with mixed-ownership controlled by Brazil's federal utility holding company Eletrobras. A case study on the social impacts of the Tucuruí dam by Fearnside (1999) reported a systematic overestimation of the plant's benefits by public authorities, while social and environmental impacts have rather been p. 436downplayed. Significant parts of the displaced population were not included in Electronorte's estimates of the affected communities and therefore excluded from the resettlement programme; the company arbitrarily provided some small cash payments but relieved itself from any further responsibility (like providing land).

The dam introduced the plague of Mansonia mosquitoes, also malaria increased. Riverside forests were flooded. There was a collapse of fishery and shrimp numbers, thus a decline in local food supply. While the dam brought an overall population increase, it especially affected Indigenous populations. The rerouting of the Transamazon Highway and establishment of resettlement areas caused further expropriation of Indigenous livelihoods and heavy deforestation.

In 1991, the Brazilian government was condemned for the impacts of Tucuruí by the civil-society International Water Tribunal held in Amsterdam. This brought international attention to the conflict. A 2001 follow-up study stated that access to information by the public had been restricted by Eletronorte while decision making ignored environmental studies and was influenced by military and foreign financial interests, ultimately serving the interests of multinational companies. Beyond the displaced people, nearby municipalities and agricultural producers also suffered from indirect impacts, for example, increased dryness from change in seasonal floods. There was an intensification of land occupation in the Tucuruí area – typically by displaced families trying to build a new existence – which increased conflict with Eletronorte and other large landholders. The occupations – who received support from the MST ‒ included public land that was irregularly grabbed and deforested by large-scale ranchers and about 1,500 islands in the artificial Tucuruí lake. More than 25 years after being displaced, most communities are still waiting for compensation and lack basic public services. A study by Arrifano et al. (2018) found that “inhabitants of the Tucuruí Dam seem to show the highest levels of total mercury ever detected in human populations living near an Amazonian dam”.

The hydroelectric dam and related mega-projects have brought forward the emergence of new social actors. As Silva (2009 and 2014) outlines, local movements such as the Commission of those Affected by the Tucuruí Hydroelectric Plant and the Movement of the expropriated people by the Tucuruí dam emerged in the early 1980s, one of the historical roots in 1991 of Brazil's Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB). Supported by rural worker unions and the CPT, social mobilizations gave voice and new identity to marginalized local groups. Protests included frequent demonstrations, occupations of public administrations and a two-year-long camp at the entrance of the Eletronorte compound to demand alternative settlements and compensation for their destroyed economies and livelihoods.

Moreover, as is documented by the FIOCRUZ map, an association of island communities together with the local movements has been demanding the creation of the “Itaipava Extractivist Reserve” (RESEX) on the Tucuruí lake since the early 1990s. The government preferred a “sustainable development reserve”, as it would allow future economic activities. It was finally left aside with the announcement of the expansion plans of the Tucuruí dam.

Mass mobilizations continued in the 2000s. For example, street demonstrations led by the MST, the MAB and Via Campesina resulted in a two-day occupation of the Tucuruí plant in 2007, forcing government representatives to hold talks with the MAB. Other protests were directed against public authorities like the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (INCRA), responsible for agrarian reform and resettlement. Such protests led to an increasing p. 437criminalization of activists, including MAB leaders (one of whom was condemned to 12 years in prison), but also won the support of other social movements.

Another notable example is the 2007 occupation of private land by displaced and landless communities and the MST movement, establishing a settlement named Salvador Allende. The MST considered the area as public land that had been appropriated through the practice of grilagem. After various armed attacks, some of the initially involved 480 landless families left the territory. In the following year, about 1,300 families occupied INCRA headquarters in Macabá. The MAB and the Federation of Workers in Family Agriculture supported the occupation. In 2012, the Salvador Allende settlement was officially regularized by INCRA and distributed in small agricultural lots to a number of families.

In 2013, the Federal Court of Justice granted state compensation to the Asurini community. Meanwhile, new protests took place; most notably, hundreds of people occupied the city council of Tucuruí to demand again the regularization of land and the realization of development plans for affected communities agreed in 2005. Thirty years after the first displacements, annual mass demonstrations still take place around the 14 March, on International Rivers Day.

The movement has been regularly confronted with acts of violence. In 2009, the head of the Rural Workers Union Raimundo Nonato do Carmo Silva, known as Raimundinho, was assassinated in Tucuruí. On 22 March 2019, the regional MAB coordinator Dilma Ferreira da Silva, her partner Claudionor Costa da Silva and her friend Hilton Lopes were brutally assassinated at Dilma's house in the settlement of Salvador Allende. According to first reports of neighbours, five people arrived at the house and music was played unusually loud. The murder was discovered the next day, when the bus stopped by the house to pick up Dilma to go to work at the local school. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and deputies in the Brazilian Congress condemned the killing, while the Bolsonaro administration did not issue any statement. Two days later, another three people were found assassinated in a nearby farm, owned by rancher and businessman Fernando Ferreira Rosa Filho. The MAB pointed to the international recognition of Dilma's activism and her lifelong struggle against multiple discriminations – as a Black, female, north-eastern, riverine and displaced person affected by one of the most conflictive giant dam projects in the Amazon.


We now go back to the Tapajós River basin, south of Itaituba (Figure 19.3). The construction of BR-163 highway in the late 1970s traversed vast forested areas of Pará and Mato Grosso to connect Cuiabá with Santarém. It led to a rapid increase in land grabbing, deforestation, cattle and soy farming. The municipality of Novo Progresso has become a major gateway for cattle farming in the Amazon. Left without rights and power, landless peasants face ongoing threats and marginalization and are even incorporated in the expanding cycles of colonization and deforestation, which only benefit land grabbers and landholders. International meat giants such as JBS stand on the other end of the production chain and purchase more than half of the cattle that have been detected by studies as illegal. JBS describes itself as a multinational company of Brazilian origin, one of the global leaders in the food industry. With main offices in the city of São Paulo, it is present in over 20 countries.p. 438

The Amazon basin (Wikipedia).
Figure 19.3

The Amazon basin

Source:  Wikipedia

The municipality of Novo Progresso is situated in the Tapajós region in the isolated south-west of Pará, currently a venue of a number of controversial projects, including the announced building of a “grain railway”, new highways and dozens of large dams, but also the proliferation of illegal gold mining (by garimpeiros) and systematic land grabbing and deforestation. Agricultural expansion in the region illustrates key dynamics between advancing deforestation and social conflict in the Amazon. The south-north BR-163 highway is one of the most crucial transport routes for Brazil's agribusiness. It led to an influx of so-called grileiros (land grabbers that falsify property titles) along with landless peasants (posseiros) and other farmers who came with authorization. For Brazil's military government, the colonization of the Amazon was a matter of national security and was accompanied by policies to incentivize soy cultivation and cattle p. 439farming, but also with a resettlement strategy for masses of poor people. The land reform never took place, and this later brought forward the rise of Brazil's landless peasant movement MST. Along the BR-163, soy cultivation and cattle farming continued to expand from Mato Grosso northwards. This trend was slowed down in the early 2000s. However, following the weakening of the forest code in 2012 and the increase in meat and soy prices, deforestation increased again.

The following account is similar to other events in Pará. Aluísio Sampaio, known as Alenquer, was a defender of landless peasants along the BR-163. He was brutally murdered on 11 October 2018 by people from Novo Progresso. The assassination of Alenquer happened some days before the election of Brazil's new president Bolsonaro, who frequently justified the use of weapons by landowners. During one of his campaign visits in Pará he praised military policemen convicted for killing MST 19 landless peasants in El Dorado in 1996 and promised to classify the MST as a terrorist organization. Alenquer was the head of the rural workers union Sintraff (Sindicato dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura Familiar) helping peasant families to become resettled. According to local media, the police had not undertaken investigations after a video released in 2017 in which Alenquer reported about three people having stolen land and planning his assassination ‒ including a former mayor of Novo Progresso and Agamenon Menezes, a rancher and president of the local rural producers’ union.

The dispute centred around the “KM Mil” area, one of the landless peasant occupations organized by Alenquer, situated at the 1000 km milestone in the BR-163. In late 2016, he accompanied a journalist and the researcher Maurício Torres to the occupied area to raise awareness. Land reform promises had not been fulfilled. Claiming these historical land rights, about 80 landless peasant families of the KM Mil community built up provisory shacks at the beginning of the forest and started to clear trees. They explained that they would have preferred to occupy already cleared areas but doing so would almost certainly put their lives in danger, as these lands belong to powerful landholders. With the support of their trade union, many posseiros felt they had some kind of protection. Mauricio Torres also interviewed Agamenon Menezes, the head of the rural producers’ union accused by Alenquer, and reported about the practice of sending hired militias to get rid of “invading” peasant families. Menezes announced that the KM Mil occupation had to end, but in which way – violently or not ‒ only depended on the community itself.

With their influence over public officials in IBAMA, grileiros can draw attention away from their illegal land thefts, and instead point to the deforestation caused by those without rights and power. Because of impunity, occupation and deforestation has incentivized over the last years. Land grabbers usually remain unpunished. Increasing scarcity in cleared land has moreover triggered “speculative clearance”. Forests in federal land are being grabbed and cleared, have appreciated in financial value, and are then sold to ranchers and farmers. Contrary to the past, this new form of land grabbing has become separated from farming.

Purchasers are either large producers aware of the irregularity but powerful enough to defend the land, or small-scale farmers believing they have purchased regular land. Landless peasants, however, find themselves constantly in irregularity and pushed towards the margins of the forest with every new cycle of colonization. Most of the deforested land is used for grazing cattle. As only 30 per cent of landowners in Pará have a legal land title, cattle are often the easiest way to make immediate profit and declare ownership of the land. As shown in the documentary Grazing the Amazon (2018), ranchers enjoy widespread impunity with regard to violations of environmental crimes and “cattle washing”. Brazil's largest slaughterhouses widely ignore regulations.p. 440


Leaving Pará and going west to Acre and Rondônia, I first bring up two agrarian and environmental conflicts from Acre, Brazil. One is very contemporary, in Capixaba, but in a way it started over one hundred years ago. The other one is the famous case in Xapuri of the rubber tappers’ trade union.

Capixaba 16

This agrarian conflict around the Seringal Capatará, a rural and forested area in the state of Acre, involves around 180 rubber tapper and farmer families and the cattle rancher Osvaldo Ribeiro. An area of 5,000 ha is under dispute and occupied by the communities. The seringal (rubber trees) are located in the district of Capixaba, close to the new highway BR 317 which connects Acre's capital Rio Branco with the Brazilian-Peruvian-Bolivian border and then goes to Cusco in Peru.

Rubber tapper families moved to the area decades ago without having official land titles. After the economic potential of rubber was discovered in the late nineteenth century, Acre and other parts of the Amazon soon became well-known centres of latex extraction. The rapidly extending rubber frontier was built on a system of semi-slavery, violently incorporating a large part of the Indigenous population and immigrants as workforce to create dependencies. The historical uprisings of rubber tappers in Bolivia nourished the ground for the Acre Revolution. However, the rubber economy faced a crisis after 1915 although World War II brought a short boom. The Brazilian government declared the prioritization of cattle ranching and agriculture in the 1960s. The arrival of fazendeiros (large-scale farmers, ranchers) gradually expelled rubber tappers and renewed the land conflict. Many seringueiros (rubber tappers) moved to more interior parts of the forests to become autonomous rubber tappers or small farmers.

In the Seringal Capatará, some individuals are reported to have already spent more than 50 years there, others less. Many never had schooling. Some were vainly waiting for resettlement after being expelled from their old home due to similar agrarian conflicts. Others are part of families that have lived there for generations. The start of the conflict in the Seringal Capatará can be traced back to the year 2004. Osvaldo Ribeiro illegitimately began to present himself as the owner and threatened them. The conflict simmered on until 2009, when new families came to the territory under dispute, understanding it as public land. They started a peaceful occupation in order to live in and from the forest. Destruction of food gardens, burning of houses, physical violence and death threats were reported. The workers’ union Central Única dos Trabalhadores started to mediate the case and to support the posseiros.

In November 2011, INCRA declared that, as part of the land in dispute belonged to the federal government, the process was remitted to the Federal Court of Acre in January 2012. Osvaldo Ribeiro refused negotiations. Life threats against the squatters continued. In June 2013, people of Capatará protested and camped for two days outside the INCRA headquarters in Rio Branco. INCRA reacted by stating that the root of the conflict lay in the historically lacking administrative differentiation between public and private land. INCRA and the residents’ association reached an agreement and the demonstrators left the headquarters, despite remaining sceptical (Figure 19.4).

Capixaba, Acre. “We want to really produce, and not destroy as the fazendeiros do” (EJAtlas).
Figure 19.4

Capixaba, Acre. “We want to really produce, and not destroy as the fazendeiros do”

Source:  EJAtlas

The process was prolonged several times in the hope of an extrajudicial agreement between the parties and because some posseiros were confirmed as landowners by an INCRA assessment. The final court record has 1,652 pages and the process ended in May 2016 with a p. 441decision in favour of the cattle rancher. Only 15 posseiros families were recognized as owners. The community of Capatará reacted to the court decision with blockades of road BR-317, which initially led to the postponing of the eviction. In August 2016, the eviction was implemented. The military police used rubber bullets and gas bombs. However, despite the court decision in favour of the cattle rancher, no one knew where the area began and ended. Thus, while only 2,000 ha were authorized, the area evicted seems to have been about 5,000 ha. It is reported that up to 261 families were evicted, including some that have lived there for more than 25 years, kids that had been born there and a school that had been built by the residents themselves. Three months after the eviction, 150 families invaded the area in an attempt to return to their land. In fear of tensions, a special forces unit was sent to disarm both sides.

Apart from showing the violence inherent to the land rights situation in the Amazon, this conflict also exemplifies the clash between the old land use practices of rubber tappers and the clearly increasing pressure from agriculture and in particular cattle farming.

Xapuri, Chico Mendes 17

Chico Mendes campaigned against ranchers to stop the deforestation of the rainforest. In 1988, he was shot and became a symbol for the global environmental justice movement. During the 1970s and late 1980s, the military government of Brazil, in an effort to fortify the economy, started to offer incentives to cattle ranchers in the rainforest. Rapidly, the p. 442deforestation became visible, affecting rubber tappers or seringueiros in Acre which, in 1976, organized themselves to save the forest and their livelihoods. One of the forms of mobilization by the protesters was the empate – a peaceful demonstration in which they bodily opposed the police, non-violently protecting the trees.

In the early 1980s, ranchers from Southern Brazil began to buy up huge tracts of Amazon land to clear them for cattle grazing. Frigorifico Bordon SA was one of the enterprises in this conflict. In all this process, Chico Mendes, a traditional rubber tapper in Xapuri became involved in the struggle. Initially, Mendes sent letters to the president describing the inhumane conditions imposed upon the rubber tappers. But his letters were ignored. At the same time, a highway was being built from Rôndonia state towards Peru, causing deforestation and loss of livelihood for thousands of seringueiros. The Environmental Defence Fund invited Chico Mendes to attend the Inter-American Development Bank annual meeting in Washington and to meet US Congress members.

The year 1985 marks the founding of the National Council of Rubber Tappers by Chico Mendes and other key union leaders. In 1986, the Xapuri Rural Workers’ Union allied with the Indigenous people of Brazil. This alliance showed government officials the seriousness of the campaign's demands. In June, Mendes organized over 200 tappers for a march on the federal forestry office of Xapuri. They were evicted by the police. Starting then, the seringueiros leaders received death threats.

As a form of territorial resistance, trade unionists proposed the creation of the “Extractive Reserves (RESEX)”, protected areas where the traditional populations would continue their sustainable extractive activities, with no risk of being expropriated. In the following years, the movement focused on recruiting rubber tappers for empates and rallying international support. Recognition of Chico Mendes with international prizes (United Nations Global 500 Environmental Prize and World Society Prize in 1987) spread awareness of the campaign.

On 22 December 1988, Chico Mendes was murdered by two ranchers (Darcy Alves and his father, Darly Alves de Silva). They were both sent to jail for 19 years. As a temporal sign of environmental justice success, the policy in the Amazon changed for some years and the RESEX model was legalized. With 980,000 ha, the first RESEX was named “Chico Mendes” and served as a home and refuge to 3,000 families. Today, there are RESEX along the whole Brazilian territory, but they are not always preserved.


Here, the long-lasting conflict is not the grabbing of land for cattle ranching or the appropriation of river water for the production of hydropower. The conflict is on bloody diamonds, against the pre-colonial Indigenous populations. Contacts between the national Brazilian population and the Cinta Larga Indians happened in the early twentieth century, when rubber gatherers entered their territory. The conflict intensified in 1963, when the first prospectors began to invade their lands and decimated the Indigenous population, like during the Massacre of Parallel Eleven. The miner Francisco de Brito and a group of gunmen raided a Cinta Larga village and massacred the Indians. Another slaughter occurred in 1968, when ten Indians were killed after attacking miners who invaded their territory. There have been many conflicts between the Cinta Larga Indians and groups of artisan miners interested in exploiting diamond deposits in their traditional lands, an area of more than 2.6 million ha. According p. 443to studies conducted by the DNPM (National Department of Mineral Production), this deposit has the capacity to produce at least one million carats of diamonds per year. Although mineral exploitation on Indigenous lands is illegal, it takes place.

In 1969, the Brazilian State, through FUNAI, tried to calm down the Indians and ensure continuity of mining. An Indian reservation was created to ensure the maintenance of the Cinta Larga territory, but the boundaries have been reduced several times. Out of the 5,000 Cinta Larga people inhabiting the region in 1960, less than 2,000 were still alive in 2012. They intensified actions to pull miners out of their lands, and began to explore the diamonds themselves and sell them to international smugglers. In 2003, it was reported that members of the Mining Center for Nature Conservation would be acting as representatives of the Mining Company of the State of Rondônia to negotiate diamond mining with the Indians. In the following year, a Federal Police operation arrested at least 15 people for illegal exploitation of diamonds, many of whom were State officials. Several Cinta Larga were murdered that year. As a reprisal, Indians killed 29 miners in a joint action with other ethnic groups.

Since 2010, the Indigenous leaders have decided to suspend the mining on their lands, relying on the support of the Federal Police. However, local people have not had their basic needs met. Occasionally, the FUNAI donates food baskets and many social projects intend to help them. Still, illegal diamond mining is spreading. A BBC report soberly concludes: “The riches of the land on which the Cinta Larga live have historically brought them misfortune. Before diamonds were discovered, rubber prospectors killed many of them for their land”.


We shall end this chapter leaving the Amazon region and going back to the South to explain some urban conflicts in the metropolis of São Paulo.

Cubatão: Urban Conflicts on Environmental Health 19

During the 1960s, the municipality of Cubatão (São Paulo) developed into an important industrial park, prompted by a strategically appealing location and the inauguration of Petrobrás “Presidente Artur Bernardes” oil refinery in 1955. The development of the industrial park did not follow any sort of planning and norms, which led to a spread of contamination sources among the population and the surrounding Atlantic Forest and mangrove ecosystems. The grievances and claims came from local citizens and also trade unions.

During the 1970s and the 1980s, the levels of contamination of air and water and its impacts in Cubatão were calamitous. It affected both land and water fauna whose numbers in the region dropped drastically, as well as further degradation of the forest due to acid rain. The impacts on human health were also felt: perinatal death rates with anencephaly, neurological disorders, altered haematological data and respiratory problems. The topographic conditions and the wind patterns in the Cubatão Valley contributed to a slower dispersion of polluting particles.

In the late 1970s, the situation was so severe that it raised international attention. The UN declared the Cubatão a “bad example” of industrial development. The region soon became known as the Valley of Death. In 1981, the State Government and the polluting companies created a workgroup called Valley of Life. The consortium issued a report proposing to move p. 444the population out of one of the most affected areas and to expand the industrial complex. It said nothing about contamination levels or corporate responsibility. Neighbours, communities, workers’ unions and religious groups criticized the report and demanded stronger actions against the polluting companies. At the same time, they started relating contamination with other issues such as poverty, lack of services and proper housing. One of the outcomes of this organization was the creation of Associação das Vítimas de Poluição e das Más Condições de Vida de Cubatão (AVPMCVC) ‒ The Association of Contamination Victims and Inadequate Life Conditions.

Because of community and media pressure, State authorities created the State's Environmental Council in 1983, which drew the Action programme to control contamination at Cubatão. The World Bank, the State of São Paulo and the industrial sector financed the programme, whose implementation was handed to the Companhia Ambiental do Estado de São Paulo. It included a study of contamination sources, emission reduction goals, sanctions, reforestation measures, and community participation. This last aspect contributed significantly to the popular support of the plan. In only a few years, contamination levels dropped considerably in Cubatão, even if current levels are still unsatisfactory.

Brazilian justice fined several companies over the years. A group of workers of Rhodia – a fertilizer producer belonging to the multinational Solvay – organized under the Association Fighting Pollutants (ACPO). They took legal action against the company for breaking a memorandum signed in 1995 that stipulated regular follow-ups of workers’ health status and their reintegration in the company. Two years earlier, Rhodia had been forced to suspend its activities due to extreme contamination of soil and water. According to ACPO, the company was not respecting the memorandum and was not taking responsibility for health impacts on employees. This is a famous early case in the annals of working-class environmentalism in Brazil against “corporate social irresponsibility”, and lack of liability by the Rhodia company.

A more recent study (2013) stated that current levels still carried health risks to the population, while the WHO stressed the importance of constant monitoring of emissions. Cubatão was designated by the UN as a Symbol of Environmental Recovery, allegedly with 98 per cent of the level of pollutants controlled, a worldwide example as the city that was reborn from the shadows of pollution. In 2017, a local court ruled that 24 companies in the industrial park, including Rhodia and Petrobras (owner of the refinery), would have to pay compensation corresponding to the costs of decontamination. Only a couple of months earlier, a fire in the fertilizers factory of the Vale company caused a smoke leak containing ammonium nitrate and sulphuric acid, thus showing that there is still risk of accidents. There were no victims.

The Squat Ocupa Mauá in São Paulo Prevents Evictions between 2007 and 2017 20

Affordable and dignified housing has grown in concern everywhere. Many people have gone to São Paulo to find a job. Many failed, and those who have one cannot always afford decent housing. It is estimated that São Paulo has a housing deficit of 830,000 dwellings, an estimated 15,000 people living on the streets, more than 200,000 vacant buildings, and an unemployment rate of 14 per cent. In 2019, there were over 21 million people living in the urban area. In November 2017, 20,000 homeless Brazilians took to the streets to demand affordable housing in the city. Having trouble finding a place to live, many citizens see squats around the city as solutions to offering them a home.p. 445

One of these squats is the Ocupa Mauá, located in the Luz area. This area has fallen into decline after floods, poor planning and rising drug and crime problems. Since 2003, the city council planned that the area be used for social housing for low-income families. The Ocupa Mauá came into being on 25 March 2007, when squatters took over the abandoned Hotel Santos Dumont. Home to 237 low-income families (approximately 1,300 people, including 200 children), it has been both a community and part of a larger social movement fighting for housing. Recession, inequality, and political polarization fuelled the squatting movement to expand, and there are around 80 organized squats in the city. However, since 2010, the neighbourhood was caught in a polarized debate over the problems of drugs, and the neglect and violence issuing from this, as well as the “Nova Luz” gentrification project, which would demolish several buildings, including the Mauá Occupation, to revitalize the area by encouraging real estate speculation and intensifying services.

The city attempted to buy the Mauá-building to use it for social housing, but failed to meet the price tag demanded by its owners. In October 2017, the residents of the Ocupa Mauá faced eviction. This deadline was postponed to November, as negotiations between the city and the building owners continued. Following a petition organized between the Mauá residents and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development and signed by 4,000 people in England and Wales, enough pressure was put to agree to a peaceful solution. Forced evictions and possible police force were avoided, and the process of the official purchase of legal rights over the complex began. This militant squatting community persisted. 21


There is a Brazilian saying, isso é para inglês ver, which means to make believe, to go by appearances. It is attributed to the slave trade mostly from the Gulf of Guinea to Brazil, some decades after the British had forbidden such trade in 1830. The slaves were hidden to avoid inspections. This book, although written in English for an international audience, is not written “for the English to see”. Nothing should be hidden; on the contrary, the EJAtlas wants to make socio-ecological conflicts visible, finding the historical sense of these struggles for a worldwide movement of environmental justice. Brazil contributes greatly to the practice and theory of such a movement, to its vocabulary and its iconography, and my purpose is to elicit some of these teachings. For the Africans, the South and SE Asians to see, for all the subaltern and downtrodden people everywhere to see. One way of making conflicts visible is that practised by the local campaigns themselves when they join in wider organizations and the diverse articulações or networks. As the participants in the conflicts we have urban and rural inhabitants, women and men, of different backgrounds. We have many peasants and landless peasants, including Amazonian ribeirinhos who are fisherfolk. We have. numerous surviving Indigenous groups and also quilombolas. We have an assortment of citizens and neighbours, local EJOs (and a few times international EJOs), trade unions, scientists and professionals, religious groups of great relevance (such as the CPT, motivated by Catholic Liberation Theology). Among the organizations, lasting or ephemerous, Friends of the Earth exists but is negligible (in Brazil) but we have MAB (the movement of atingidos por barragens), the AAB (anti-nuclear), the ABREA (anti-asbestos), the MST (the landless movement) together with Via Campesina (international) and peasant unions. We could have included other protagonists p. 446in the tour, like traditional caiçaras (ocean fishermen) or the garimpeiros (artisanal miners, working for themselves or for bigger entrepreneurs). There is a Rede de Justiça Ambiental, influenced by the original USA movement against environmental racism of the 1980s. Also we notice the participation of Brazilian local movements in the International Rivers Day on 14 March and in the International Peasant's Day on 17 April which commemorates the killing in 1996 in Eldorado de Carajás.

This trip started looking at emblematic environmental conflicts Starting from Minas Gerais, as if we were tourists keen to see first the baroque churches of Ouro Preto and the early colonial gold mining villages, we have done a zig-zag tour of Brazil. In Minas Gerais, with such a sweet rolling landscape, there are iron ore mines developed by the Vale company. We have seen the recent horrors of Mariana, Brumadinho and the struggle at Gandarela, next to Belo Horizonte. Continuing this journey, we went to the South first, to Rio Grande do Sul and recent mining conflicts near its capital, Porto Alegre, and then to the north, to Maranhão, the Guianas and Roraima. We looked at the women's defence of coco babassu and to mining conflicts, and also at some of the big dams in the Amazon, as well as land grabbing conflicts involving landowners, peasants and Indigenous populations, and also had a look at recent urban squatting in Mauá, São Paulo, where we remembered industrial pollution in Cubatão.

It was Ignacy Sachs, a Polish-French economist, who introduced the notion of “eco-development” before 1972 (later officially substituted by “sustainable development” in 1987 by the UN Brundtland Commission). In his memoirs, he remembers beautiful trips to the Peruvian Amazon, in Ucayali. He wrote at one point that Brazil could be a rural paradise but it was becoming an urban hell. He wrote this when São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro were growing at 8 per cent per year, in the 1960s and 1970s, with enormous favelas. A drastic drop in the birth rate, the ups and downs of the economy and the congestion and pollution of the big cities put a brake on this urban expansion. In fact, now Amazonia is a rural hell. Brazil has been the country with the highest number of documented killings of environmental defenders (not per capita but in total) since Global Witness started reporting in 2012, with 342 lethal attacks in total. Most of them are in the Amazon region. Only some of them appear in this book.

Some parts of Brazil's large cities are indeed urban hells but some rural areas have also become hells of environmental, racial and social iniquity. This goes back 500 years to the links to coloniality and racism, to slavery and to the plantation economy based on the destruction of the Atlantic Forest. The bandeirantes are now represented by the cattle ranchers and soybean and sugarcane planters in Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, thousands of kilometres to the north and north-west of São Paulo where the original bandeirantes, coffee planters and fazendeiros came from. Today, they encounter, as they did then, some Indigenous groups and they proceed to dispossess them and often massacre them. The Cinta Larga in Rondônia, the Guarani and Tupinikim in Espiritu Santo and the Munduruku in the Valley of the Tapajós River are some of the Indigenous peoples that have appeared in this chapter. We shall find in Chapter 25 the Asháninka at the political frontier with Peru. There are also in Brazil protected quilombola territories of the former escaped slaves, the Maroons.

In north-west Brazil, in Acre, we remember the story of Chico Mendes (the seringueiros struggling for sustainable extractivist reserves) against the cattle ranchers who destroyed the forests. Today's similar story is the Capixaba settlement, not far from Xapurí where Chico Mendes lived. He is one major Latin American hero among hundreds of environmental defenders whose names we sometimes know through the EJAtlas and the Global Witness inventory, while others remain nameless.p. 447

We have recalled instances of conflict in this chapter about iron ore, coal, uranium, bauxite, tin, niobium and tantalum, ilmenite, asbestos, phosphates, industrial pollution, urban housing, diamonds, hydropower, logging and wood extraction, eucalyptus plantations and soybeans, and deforestation for cattle ranching for meat exports. This is the materiality of ecological distribution conflicts. Land grabbing is a new international term but an old reality in Brazil. The grileiros practice grilagem by falsification of property titles and by violence. One such case in this chapter is (ironically) named Novo Progresso. A landmark case took place in Eldorado de Carajás in Pará on 17 April 1996, the mass killing by the military police of 19 landless farmers who were squatting on a private ranch. There are also cultural aspects and many different valuation languages displayed, from money making to ecological values, Indigenous rights to sacredness. But money is often more powerful.

We could also insist (with Beatriz Saes and Roldan Muradian) on the role that ecologically unequal trade plays in the exploitation of nature and people. We started the “tour” in Brumadinho. The Vale company responded to the low price of iron ore after 2012 by extracting more of it. Brazil exports around 400 million tons of iron ore per year. The risk of tailing dam failures is large. In Chapter 28, the damage from Alunorte in Barcarena is described. We could have emphasized the role of Brazilian firms, such as Petrobras and Odebrecht closely linked to the PT (Lula's political party), in extracting fossil fuels, building public works around Latin America and corrupting politicians. I remember being in Dakar, Senegal, at the 2011 World Social Forum where invited foreign guests were ferried from the hotels by Petrobras buses. I felt guilty but sheepishly said nothing.



Fiocruz (2010). Fiocruz lanza mapa que incluye las denuncias de los conflictos y la salud ambiental,, 13 April.


Vale company's tailings dam failure in Brumadinho, MG, Brazil (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

Samarco tailings dam disaster in Minas Gerais, Brazil (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.


Iron ore mining in Gandarela Mountain Range, Minas Gerais, Brazil (Carolina Herrmann C de Souza and Beatriz Saes), EJAtlas.

The resistance against the giant Vale mining company is growing worldwide (Nick Meynen), EJOLT.


Todt, M. (2020). Mega-mining threatens Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul, The Ecologist, 24 February.

Coal mining project Mina Guaíba, Río Grande del Sul, Brazil (Marcos Todt), EJAtlas.


Quebradeiras de coco babaçu against agribusiness and the enclosure of their lands, Maranhão, Brazil (Max Stoisser), EJAtlas.


Gold mining in Montagne d’Or, French Guiana, EJAtlas.

Sommer-Schaechtele, A. (2019). How a UN committee contributed to end a controversial mining project in French Guiana, OpenGlobalRights, 7 November.


Saramaka people's lawsuit against state, Suriname (Grettel Navas), EJAtlas.


Recognition of Indigenous Lands in Raposa Serra do Sol, Brazil (Lucie Greyl and Camila Rolando Mazzuca), EJAtlas.


Pitinga cassiterite mine, Amazonas, Brazil (Max Stoisser), EJAtlas.


Eucalyptus Plantations Aracruz / Fibria Celulose, Brazil (Lucie Greyl), EJAtlas.


ABREA (Associação Brasileira dos Expostos ao Amianto). Uma tragédia socioambiental de proporções ainda ignoradas.

Asbestos Mine in Bom Jesus da Serra and Eternit Factory in Simões Filho, Brazil (Diogo Rocha), EJAtlas.

Cana Brava Amianto´s Mining in Minaçu, Goiás, Brazil (Grettel Navas), EJAtlas.p. 448


Itatiaia Project for uranium and phosphate mining in Santa Quitéria, Ceará, Brazil (Grettel Navas), EJAtlas.


São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam, Brazil (Daniela Del Bene), EJAtlas.


Tucuruí hydroelectric dam, Pará, Brazil (Max Stoisser and Grettel Navas), EJAtlas.


Landless peasants of ‘KM Mil’ against land grabbers in Novo Progresso, Pará, Brazil (Max Stoisser), EJAtlas.

Isensee e Sá, M. (2018). Documentary Sob a pata do boi (Grazing the Amazon) (2018).


Rubber tappers of seringal capatara displaced by cattle farmer in Acre, Brazil (Max Stoisser), EJAtlas.


Rubber tappers against cattle ranchers and the murder of Chico Mendes, Brazil, EJAtlas.


Conflict between Indians and miners in the Cinta Larga lands in Rondonia, Brazil (Diogo Rocha), EJAtlas.

Abreu, F. and Silva, L.F. (2017). The Cinta Larga and the curse of the diamonds, BBC News, 25 March.


Refinaria Presidente Bernardes “Vale da Morte, Cubatão, São Paulo, Brazil”, EJAtlas.


Ocupa Mauá, São Paulo, Brazil, EJAtlas.


Facebook page of Comunidade Mauá.

Monograph Book