During a meeting today with the Pará State Secretary of the Environment, Valmir Gabriel Ortega, the State and Federal Public Prosecutors Offices requested cancellation of the environmental license granted to Alcoa to mine bauxite in the municipality of Juruti. In an exclusive interview with the Amazonia website, the coordinator of the State Public Prosecutors Office (MPE) Environmental Center, Prosecutor Raimundo Moraes, explained that the decision to request suspension aims at averting a violent reaction by the local population, which wants the company to leave at any cost, and also to conduct a rigorous review of the license.
Although mining operations are only scheduled to begin in 2008, during public hearings held on May 2nd and 3rd, the community claims that it is already suffering impacts from construction of lodgings for employees of the multinational, a port and a road.
Moraes said, “the impacts are so obvious that Alcoa has not denied any of them. Alcoa said it was correcting the problems and recognized that it does not enjoy good relations with the community”. Moraes, however, stated that the problems run deep and will not be set straight with just repairs.Impacts One of the main complaints raised at the hearings is contamination of the waters in rivers that flow through the town.
Technical studies detected the presence of feces coliforms in Jará Lake, which supplies water to the municipality, and data from the municipal health department show that cases of viral hepatitis, caused by ingesting water contaminated by human feces, jumped from 26 in 2006 to 121 in the first four months of this year. The community accuses Alcoa of not performing proper treatment on sewage from the lodging of its employees. Moreover, Incra representatives present at the meetings presented pictures and other documents that prove that the company is conducting deforestation in areas not authorized inside the Juruti Velho and Socó Agro-extractivist Settlement Projects.
Another complaint is the increased expenses of public agencies, which are faced with increased demands for health, education and infrastructure. “If, after the review is conducted, Alcoa can act correctly, alright, otherwise it would be best for them to leave, as we do not need to bear these costs. It is unfair that they keep the riches produced here and we keep the burdens”, says Moraes.
The prosecutor believes that the population has shown its lack of trust in the company and accuses the multinational of trying to upset the hearings. “They tried to co-opt leaders, offering 10 jobs to each community”.
The preliminary license for installation of the Alcoa plant was granted by the State Environmental Council (Coema) in 2005. At the time, the representative of the State Public Prosecutors Office (MPE) voted against the authorization. Soon afterward, the agency, together with the Federal Public Prosecutors Office (MPF), filed a class action suit petitioning for the suspension of the company’s activities in the region.
The hearings this week were attended by the coordinator of the MPE Environmental Center, Prosecutor Raimundo Moraes and Federal Attorney Daniel César Azeredo Avelino, who commands the (Federal Public Prosecutors Office (MPF) in Santarém. Members from both agencies also visited the affected locations.
By Renata Gaspar