ANM (National Mining Agency) authorized Embapra (Pau Branco Mining Company) to resume operating in Serra do Curral, a green wall in Minas Gerais, of environmental, cultural and historical importance in the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte.
The permission, given last month, is limited to ore already mined and stored, which can be sold. Authorization was given four years after the suspension of the company’s activities in the mountains due to non-compliance with an agreement signed with Semad (Secretary of the Environment of Minas Gerais).
Deputy Duda Salabert (PDT-MG), who is following the case, stated that she estimated the ore to be removed from the site at 1.2 million tons, the value of which would be R$500 million. The state government did not inform the volume still stored. ANM and Embapra did not comment on the case.
ANM’s authorization conditions the activities to the presentation of a mine closure plan within six months and the desilting of the site’s dams within two months.
In a statement, the Minas Gerais government said that the authorization does not allow productive activities. He also stated that “any effective or potentially polluting activity must be previously submitted to environmental licensing, which has not yet occurred.”
“Environmental inspection was carried out at the site on November 8, 2023. At the time, it was found that the company was cleaning the sediment containment structures, a necessary safety measure. Semad and Feam reiterate that any emergency action aimed at Preventing environmental impacts must be adopted immediately by the person responsible, under penalty of even incurring administrative sanctions if the damaging event occurs”, stated the state government.
Salabert stated that he considered it absurd to authorize “the mining company to remove and sell ore after having acted illegally for so many years.” She called the Federal Police and the state Public Ministry to analyze the case.
Serra do Curral has its north side facing the south of Belo Horizonte, and is also part of two other municipalities neighboring the capital: Sabará and Nova Lima.
The area is rich in plant and animal species and iron ore. There is also a historical issue, due to the fact that the capital grew at its feet.
Part of the Serra do Curral is already under protection due to the creation of reserves such as the Mangabeiras park and the Serra do Curral park. However, there are still areas without this protection, which end up becoming targets for mining companies. Embapra began operating in the region since the 1950s.
Criticism of mining activities in the region gained a new dimension after the reaction of environmentalists and artists against the authorization given in April last year to another mining company, Tamisa, to explore an area in Serra do Curral.
The decision provoked a strong reaction from environmentalists, who defend the complete listing of the mountain, something discussed in the state since 2018.
After a legal back and forth, the Minas Gerais Court of Justice banned mining in the area authorized by Copam for the Thames, a decision that, to date, has not been reviewed.
The mining company Gute Sicht was also banned in May last year because, according to Belo Horizonte City Hall, it was exploring an area under environmental protection.