Brazil is considered to be the largest country in Latin America and South America. It occupies a vast landmass of 8.5 million square kilometers making it the fifth largest country in the world. Brazil is highly populous with an estimate of 208 million human beings across the country. Brazil is home to the Amazon rainforest with 60% of the forest found in the country. Amazon rainforest is known to be the largest tropical rainforest across the world and is very bio diversified. Over the years Amazon has become famous due to surging wildfires that affect the forest and the surrounding communities. Fires are a result of various activities such as slash and burn, logging, livestock, and mining. The activities lead to deforestation in the Amazon thus attracting numerous concerns. This paper takes a major focus on extractive activities and their effects on the communities around the Amazon in Brazil (Fearnside, 2006).
Extractive Projects in Brazil
Brazil’s economy has increased tremendously with the major gains from the huge mining industry. Mining industry has grown and expanded thus increasing the country’s financial gains, minerals extracted and diverse effects on the communities. The main extraction project affecting Amazon is the Hydro Alunorte which is the largest alumina refinery in the world. Alunorte plant is located in Barcarena and owned by a company known as Norsk Hydro (Alunorte, 2013). Amazon is well endowed with a mineral known as the bauxite which is transformed into alumina. Hydro Alunorte started its operations of mining bauxite in the Amazon since 1995. The plant supplies alumina to both the internal and domestic markets serving the high demand for alumina.
Concerns Raised Over the Hydro Alunorte Extractions
There have been numerous concerns raised by different entities over the Hydro Alunorte extractions and its effects. The main concern raised was water pollution identified in the Barcarena community. The effects were identified in the year 2000 by the Instititi Evandro Chagas (IEV) which is a public entity in the ministry of Health (Barbosa, 2000). Water pollution was affecting the environment and the human health of the communities. Among the cases reported were visual and skin problems especially among children. The community members experienced stomach pains and diarrhea after drinking the contaminated water. The problems were also identified among workers employed at the Hydro Alunorte company. Workers were exposed to various risks and accidents while executing extraction activities. Water pollution was as a result of toxic waste and leakage from the company. Hydro Alunorte experienced a massive leakage in the year 2009 where the important rivers in Brazil were contaminated with mercury and lead. The extraction polluted the groundwater and other instances contributed to the depletion of the water and the company was charged for contaminating the rivers but failed to pay the fine.
Production of aluminum by Hydro Alunorte included the use of energy and water-intensive activities which contributed to air pollution (Caravaggio, et al, 2017). Extraction activities weaken the earth’s surface putting the communities at risk of calamities such as earthquakes. Amazon is home to wildlife and indigenous people who were negatively affected by deforestation. Extraction led to the displacement of people, wildlife and loss of indigenous plants and trees. Soil was contaminated by toxic waste disposed of by the company. Toxic waste degraded the soil components which led to low crop production on the farms and also damaged crops contributing to food insecurity in Brazil. The extraction in the Amazon has led to deforestation which has affected the climatic condition across Brazil and unfavorable climatic conditions have been observed.
Activism Against the Hydro Alunorte extractions
Local organizations and dwellers in Brazil, highly denounced extractions carried out by Hydro Alunorte (Lyra, 2019). Local organizations and dwellers were supported by Movimento dos Atingidos for Barragens (MAB) which is was a political organization in Brazil formed by farmers who were against extraction activities. The main activist was Paulo Sergio Almeida Nascimento who was the leader of CAINQUIAMA. The CAINQUIAMA was an environmental organization that sorts justice against the effects caused by the extractions. Paulo had requested protection from the government due to the various death threats that he was receiving. The government failed to offer the protection Paulo requested and he succumbed to death after being shot in March 2018. Another activist was Maria do Socorro Silva who was also a leader of CAINQUIMA (Jenkins, 2017), leading the fight against the extraction for more than 10 years.
Government Involvement in The Hydro Alunorte Extractions
The government had earlier fined Hydro Alunorte for contaminating important rivers in the Amazon. Hydro Alunorte failed to pay the fine, indicating that the case lacked enough evidence to prove that the company activities had lasting impacts on the environment. State court of Brazil through a federal judge upheld the decision to cut the production of alumina at a major refinery (Hoelscher, & Rustad, 2019). The decision to cut production was supported by statements provided by the metal makers. Workers admitted to producing unlicensed emissions of water that was not treated into rivers during the seasons of severe rains. The judge ordered that the company minimize its production by half in the Bacarena plant. Ministry of health was actively involved in fighting against the extraction by raising concerns over the plant’s effects on the communities’ health.
Relationship Between Extraction and Communities
Many countries seek to improve their economies by utilizing their natural resources. Natural resources such as minerals are extracted from underground through extraction projects. Extractions are effective in financial gains (Conde, & Le Billon, 2017), through the export of mined products and employment of locals. They have negative effects on the surrounding communities through, water, air, and soil pollution. Pollution is harmful to the residents as their health is at risk (Furlong, & Norman, 2015). Mining companies should ensure to utilize procedures that conserve the environment by ensuring that toxic materials are treated and disposed properly. The government has the responsibility of providing rules and regulations that govern extraction activities to protect the communities (Broad, & Fischer 2017). Communities surrounding extractions plants have a duty of reporting any effects of the extraction to the authorities for legal action to be implemented. Extraction companies should work together with communities listening to their grievances and adopting environmentally friendly procedures thus conserving the environment.
ALUNORTE, P. A. H. (2013). Victor Cruz, Emerson Moraes, Cleto Azevedo Junior, Denise Rodrigues, Adjane Souza, Alex Furtado, Dauton Silva Alunorte S/A, Highway PA 481, Km 12, Barcarena, State of Pará, 68447-000, Brazil. Light Metals 2013, 151.
Barbosa, L. C. (2000). The Brazilian Amazon rainforest: Global ecopolitics, development, and democracy. University Press of America.
Broad, R., & Fischer-Mackey, J. (2017). From extractivism towards buen vivir: mining policy as an indicator of a new development paradigm prioritising the environment. Third World Quarterly, 38(6), 1327-1349.
Caravaggio, N., Costantini, V., Iorio, M., Monni, S., & Paglialunga, E. (2017). The challenge of hydropower as a sustainable development alternative: Benefits and controversial effects in the case of the Brazilian Amazon. In Inequality and Uneven Development in the Post-Crisis World (pp. 213-242). Routledge.
Conde, M., & Le Billon, P. (2017). Why do some communities resist mining projects while others do not?. The Extractive Industries and Society, 4(3), 681-697.
Fearnside, P. M. (2006). Dams in the Amazon: Belo Monte and Brazil’s hydroelectric development of the Xingu River Basin. Environmental management, 38(1), 16.
Furlong, K., & Norman, E. S. (2015). Chapter 31. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Political Geography, 424.
Hoelscher, K., & Rustad, S. A. (2019). CSR and social conflict in the Brazilian extractive sector. Conflict, Security & Development, 19(1), 99-119.
Jenkins, K. (2017). Women anti-mining activists’ narratives of everyday resistance in the Andes: staying put and carrying on in Peru and Ecuador. Gender, Place & Culture, 24(10), 1441-1459.
Lyra, M. G. (2019). Pursuing a voice in the extractivism debate in Brazil. Environmental Sociology, 1-12.