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Onca Puma nickel mining project in Ourilândia do Norte, Pará, Brazil

Indigenous communities denounce the contamination of the Cateté River by Vale, which produces nickel a few kilometers from the Xikrin do Cateté Indigenous Land in Pará. The Justice has ordered the interruption of operations in Onça Puma several times.


In 2003, the Canadian mining company Canico Resource Corp., through its subsidiary Mineradora Onça Puma S.A., obtained the authorization to explore nickel reserves in the mountain range Serra da Onça, located in the municipality Ourilândia do Norte, by the Brazilian Mining Department. In the same year, the company requested to the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra) the appropriation of an area of 7,404.76 acres belonging to rural settlements Campos Altos and Tucum, where three thousand families lived since the early 1990s. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Onca Puma nickel mining project in Ourilândia do Norte, Pará, Brazil
State or province:Pará
Location of conflict:Ourilândia do Norte
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral processing
Tailings from mines
Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Nickel
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The mine is expected to extract 220 thousand tons of ferronickel per year and 27 thousand tons of nickel per year.

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Project area:7,000
Level of Investment:2,600,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:3,000
Start of the conflict:2003
Company names or state enterprises:Mineracao Onca Puma (MOP) from Brazil
Vale (Vale) from Brazil - formerly named Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (Brazil)
Relevant government actors:Departamento Nacional de Producao Mineral - DNPM, Fundao Nacional do Indio - FUNAI, Instituto Nacional de Colonizacao e Reforma Agraria - INCRA, Ministerio Publico Federal - MPF, Secretaria de Meio Ambiente do Para - SEMA
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Associacao de Pequenos Produtores Rurais da Colonia de Bom Jesus, Associacao de Pequenos Produtores Rurais da Colonia de Campos Altos, Associacao de Lavradores Rurais da Colonia Santa Rita, Centro de Educacao, Pesquisa e Assessoria Sindical e Popular - CPASP, Comissao Pastoral da Terra - CPT, Movimento de Pequenos Agricultores - MPA, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra - MST, Sindicato dos Trabalhadores da Educacao Publica do Para - SINTEPP/Ourilandia do Norte
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Xikrin indigenous peoples
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Infectious diseases
Potential: Accidents, Malnutrition, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Under negotiation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The indigenous communities have won several victories in justice, but Vale denies all charges and has obtained injunctions that guarantee the mining operations despite the orders to stop production.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] Vale. Relatório de Sustentabilidade. 2011.
[click to view]

[2] Ministério Público Federal. Ação Civil Pública com pedido de antecipação dos efeitos da tutela em face de Vale S.A, Mineração Onça Puma, Estado do Pará e Funai. Andre Casagrande Raupp. 02 mai. 2011.
[click to view]

[1] Mapa de Conflitos Envolvendo Injustiça Ambiental e Saúde no Brasil. Mineração de níquel expulsa pequenos trabalhadores rurais e povos indígenas no Sudeste do Para. 2018.
[click to view]

[4] Folha de São Paulo. Assentados afirmam terem sido enganados. Agência Folha. 29 de junho de 2008.
[click to view]

[6] Agência Pública. Nos tribunais, os Xikrin estão vencendo a Vale. Naira Hofmeister. 23 de outubro de 2017.
[click to view]

[5] Araújo, Otávio. Ourilandia: Colonos fecham estrada que dá acesso a Vale. Real Online, 05 out. 2011.
[click to view]

[13] CPT. STJ ordena paralisação de mina da Vale no Pará e empresa desobedece. 01 Dezembro 2015
[click to view]

[11] Agência Pública. “Não se paga com milhões a morte de um rio.” Naira Hofmeister, José Cícero da Silva. E de dezembro de 2017.
[click to view]

[12] Agência Pública. “A poluição do rio não é negociável”. Naira Hofmeister. 7 de dezembro de 2017.
[click to view]

[10] APublica. Quanto vale um rio? Cercados por minas da Vale desde a ditadura, os Xikrin enfrentam agora a extração de níquel a 3 km da aldeia e a presença de metais pesados no Cateté. Naira Hofmeister, José Cícero da Silva. 5 de dezembro de 2017.
[click to view]

[3] Folha de São Paulo. União acusa Vale de invadir assentamentos. Eduardo Scolese. 29 de junho de 2008.
[click to view]

[8] Ministério Público Federal. TRF1 paralisa mina da Vale no Pará por danos a índios Xikrin e Kayapó. 14 de set. 2017.
[click to view]

[9] CPT. Mineração de níquel da Vale contamina águas no sudeste do Pará e Tribunal ordena paralisação. 18 Agosto 2015
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Diogo Rocha/ Beatriz Saes
Last update18/08/2019
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