Ferrogrão: government will follow through with project if STF authorizes it – 05/25/2023 – Market

Ferrogrão: government will follow through with project if STF authorizes it – 05/25/2023 – Market

The Minister of Transport, Renan Filho, classified Ferrogrão as a bold investment and said that the government will proceed with the railroad project if the STF (Supreme Federal Court) resolves the current legal impasse.

On a trip to Germany to participate in the International Transport Forum, the minister stated that, after legal authorization, there will be an in-depth environmental assessment of the work — which has been contested by environmentalists and representatives of indigenous peoples.

“If the Supreme Court’s decision is to follow, we will follow. If it is to change, we will change what needs to be changed. This has now happened with Petrobras and with several other government segments”, said Renan Filho, in reference to Ibama’s recent refusal for the state-owned company to explore oil at the mouth of the Amazon River.

A monumental work in the Amazon region, Ferrogrão is considered one of the anti-environmental projects of the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), even called the “new Belo Monte”.

With a length of around 1,000 km and a budgeted cost of R$ 20 billion, the work would dispose of grains, mainly soy and corn, from one of the main producing regions of the country, Mato Grosso, through the so-called Arco Norte, in the Amazon. It would have one end in Sinop (MT) and another in the port of Miritituba (PA), on the Tapajós River.

The opposite mobilization involves warnings about the impacts of a railroad that crosses the Amazon rainforest and borders indigenous lands.

Located in the middle of the Ferrogrão route, the Jamanxim National Park would need to have its area altered so that the railroad could be built.

The forest boundaries were changed during the Michel Temer (MDB) government, but in March 2021, Minister Alexandre de Moraes suspended the law in an injunction. The decision on the case is scheduled for May 31, at the STF.

According to Renan Filho, Ferrogrão has this first legal challenge and then an environmental one.

“I hope that, legally, we are in a position to move forward and, I understand, we are going to have an in-depth discussion from an environmental point of view, so that we have the best project for the region, and that improves efficiency to transport the cargo produced in central Brazil , especially grains,” he said.

The minister stated that the work is one of the boldest of its kind, but argues that it is possible to make this type of investment sustainably.

“We don’t defend — and I’ve never seen the president [Lula] defending this— not having investments to improve national competitiveness because of these other issues [ambientais]. But it is obvious that the opposite is also false, “she said.

Ferrogrão is seen by environmentalists as one of the developments with the greatest potential for impact in the country, along with oil exploration at the mouth of the Amazon and paving the BR-319 —the highway that crosses the biome.

In July 2021, Apib (Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil) sent a letter to the Progressive International, an entity that brings together left-wing global leaders, warning about the impacts of the project on the region’s ecosystem.

“The Ferrogrão project can only be compared to humanitarian and environmental catastrophes such as the Transamazônica highway and the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant”, says the letter.

In the Lula 3 government, Ferrogrão has been the reason for a clash between ministries. While the Transport Ministry wants to get the project off the ground, the head of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, Sônia Guajajara, is working in the opposite direction.

Last week, the minister asked the AGU (Advocacy General of the Union) to demonstrate to the STF against the change in the limits of the Jamanxim National Park.

Asked about the government’s internal divergence, Renan Filho said it was natural to have different positions.

“Each department has its interest and has its most determined actions. It is obvious that we will have to talk with the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples and with the government’s environmental area, but this needs to happen at the appropriate time. Now we are waiting for the Supreme Court decision,” he said.

“But the central position is to guarantee investments in infrastructure that will allow Brazil to advance and generate wealth with sustainability. This is the balance that President Lula aims to seek,” he added.

An old agribusiness demand, Ferrogrão gained speed during the mandate of Jair Bolsonaro (PL). To get the railway off the ground, the government sought to present it as environmentally sustainable, which even involved signing a memorandum with the CBI (Climate Bonds Initiative), which certifies works with a kind of “green seal”.

One of the main organizers at the time was the then Minister of Infrastructure, Tarcísio de Freitas, now governor of São Paulo.

The sustainable argument is based on the promise to reduce the emission of tons of carbon —thanks to the expected reduction of 90% in the flow of trucks on BR-163, which today take soy from Mato Grosso to the port in Tapajós.

Despite gaining traction in the Bolsonaro government, the project had previously been defended by the PT, and was even included in a version of the PIL (Program for Investments in Logistics), announced by the Dilma Rousseff government in 2015. But it never went ahead.

Now, the work has the support of the president himself. Ferrogrão can oil Lula’s relationship with agribusiness, a sector that massively supported Bolsonaro’s re-election and which still has a conflicting relationship with the PT.

The reporter traveled at the invitation of the ITF (International Transport Forum)

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