Illegal manganese extraction in PA moves millions – 12/18/2022 – Environment

Mining engineer Walter (fictitious name) was recently advised that he was under a death sentence and that he should not return to the Marabá region (PA), where do you work. Since the 1970s, the area has been affected by a permanent conflict between garimpeiros, land grabbers and militias.

It is precisely because of this violence that he asked that his real name not be used. The threat came about because his research bothered people involved in illegal mining schemes in the amazon.

O ore of the time is the manganese, used in the steel industry. According to reports, the chain of extraction without authorization by the ANM (National Mining Agency) includes the “heating up” of cold bills and the complacency of municipal, state and federal authorities in the region.

Walter says that, in the old days, small illegal prospectors took ore that surfaced from the surface, it was so abundant, but today extraction is only possible with large equipment.

For him, the situation has worsened in recent years since President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) was against the destruction of machinery seized in assessments by public bodies.

Access to manganese often involves a threat to landowners. It is common for a company representative to go to the owner of an area where the presence of ore has already been identified, pressure him to sell it at a ridiculous price and, given the refusal, end up expelling him with the support of militias.

Carlos, a resident of the region who also asks for secrecy, says that he was lucky not to have ore on his land, but that he has already seen many neighbors being expelled by armed men.

The pressure from irregular companies in the region is so great that not even Vale wanted to touch the hornet’s nest. In April of this year, businessmen in the mining sector received an email marked as confidential in which the company offered the market mining rights to explore eight large areas of manganese it has owned for over 20 years, totaling more than 12,000 acre.

The message to potential interested parties, revealed at the time by the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo and to which the Sheet also had access, he said that the area was already invaded by third parties, and that he would not accompany visits to the site, anyone who wanted to do so “at his own risk”. In addition, the buyer would have to undertake to assume any and all environmental liabilities that might be registered in the area.

When contacted by the report, Vale did not respond if there was anyone interested in the offer. The company said, in a note, that “over the past few years, it has become aware of the existence of illegal mining carried out by third parties in the area of ​​the company’s mining rights”.

“Considering that Vale does not own the properties and does not even have access to the location or legitimacy to remove any invaders, the company filed complaints with the competent bodies, providing them with the information it had in order to contribute to the investigation and closing of the clandestine activities,” he says.

Soon after the denunciation by the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, an operation was launched on May 19, bringing together the PF (Federal Police), PRF (Federal Highway Police) and the ANM. In the action, 2,400 tons of irregularly extracted ore, two backhoe loaders and a crusher were seized in the municipalities of Marabá and Curionópolis.

However, the action did not prevent illegal activities from continuing in the region. In photos taken by Sheet after this operation, it is possible to see the piles of ore by the roadside, waiting for trucks to take the load to be crushed, to then proceed to the port of Barcarena, 480 km away.

On the last November 10th, the PF carried out a new operation, fulfilling ten search and seizure warrants in the União and Capistrano de Abreu villages, in Marabá. 14 wheel loaders, two trucks and several crushers were rendered unusable. The names of the owners of the equipment were not disclosed.

“There are countless places of illegal extraction of ore in the Marabá region, as well as crimes related to the embezzlement of public resources”, said the PF, in a note.

According to documents sent to Sheet according to market sources with access to the processes, one of the companies suspected of operating in the region is RMB (Recursos Minerais do Brasil SA). In the lawsuits, it is estimated that it would have extracted 280,000 tons of ore without formal authorization, equivalent, at current prices, to R$ 140 million.

In November 2020, a PF and ANM operation seized vehicles and equipment in an area where the RMB operated without having mining rights.

According to investigations, the company “heats” the material extracted in an irregular manner as if it had been taken from another location for which the company has a GU (use guide), granted by the ANM.

In the authorized area, however, little presence of ore was detected, with manganese content below the levels accepted by the market. A report by the ANM also described that in this location “one could see the mining completely abandoned”.

Sought by the report, the RMB group refuted all the accusations. In a note, the group’s companies say that they “operate in strict compliance with current legislation”, supported by operating licenses issued in 2017 and 2021 by the Secretary of Environment and Sustainability of the State of Pará.

The business group also claimed to collaborate with the authorities by “presenting complaints and relevant information” to combat the illegal extraction of manganese ore and gold.

The note also contests the operation carried out in 2020 against the company by the PF and the ANM. The company says that the action was aimed “only at the companies of the RMB group, despite the huge number of illegal extraction points denounced, and which remained in operation”.

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