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Iron ore mining and mineroduct, Morro do Pilar, Minas Gerais, Brazil


With the objective of extracting and exporting iron ore from Morro do Pilar in Minas Gerais (Brazil), former Vale and MMX executives created the company Manabi S.A. in 2011. The export of iron ore pellets from the region also depended on the construction of a 512 kilometers pipeline or mineroduct, in 19 municipalities of Minas Gerais and 4 in Espírito Santo, and of a  ocean port terminal in the municipality of Linhares (Espírito Santo). The region is already affected by the Anglo American-owned Minas-Rio iron ore project, located in the neighboring municipality of Conceição do Mato Dentro. Morro do Pilar received 19 kilometers of Anglo American pipeline in 2011. During this period, the environmental licensing process of the Morro do Pilar Project was also initiated. The first public hearing to present the venture, part of the licensing process, was held in October 2012 and had the participation of 700 people. At the hearing, Manabi S.A. had shown strong support from the city hall and local trade associations. However, in December 2012, the Minas Gerais Public Prosecutor's Office questioned the licensing process through an inquiry, which emphasized the need for more in-depth studies on the prevention and compensation of the negative impacts of the project. As a result, Manabi signed a Preliminary Statement of Commitment and Social and Environmental Responsibility, pledging to cover the environmental control measures in the course of the licensing process, as well as the analysis of the environmental studies presented to the environmental agency.

Despite the Statement, in March 2013, Manabi S.A. and the Government of the State of Minas Gerais already signed a Memorandum of Understanding on mining exploration, assuming an investment of R $ 6.25 billion in the State (approximately US $ 2 billion). Associations and NGOs – particularly the Association of Organic Environmental Conservation (ACAÓ), Santa Maria de Itabira, and the NGO 4 Cantos do Mundo – criticized the Memorandum, arguing that the political agreement created a commitment that disregarded the  environmental licensing process and the potential for democratic participation.

Also, in 2014, state and federal prosecutors and researchers emphasized the need for additional socioeconomic studies in the areas affected by mining, especially in relation to traditional and quilombola communities. Both the Minas Gerais Public Prosecution Service and the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office signed recommendations in this regard. Among the groups of researchers, the Brazilian Association of Anthropology and the Group Environmental Thematic Studies (GESTA) of the Federal University of Minas Gerais have spoken out in defense of traditional communities. The GESTA filed a letter for the Attorney General of Minas Gerais, criticizing the insufficiency and inconsistencies of the information provided by Manabi regarding traditional communities and reinforcing Minas Gerais’ Law 21.147 of 2014, which ensures that traditional peoples and communities remain in their territories and the full exercise of their individual and collective rights.

Despite the criticisms, the Preliminary License to the Morro do Pilar Project was granted in November 2014. While the mine in Morro do Pilar had its licensing process conducted by the state environmental agency of Minas Gerais, the process for the licensing of the pipeline and the port terminal was conducted by IBAMA. Opposition to the pipeline and to the port terminal was more intense, especially from January 2014, when four public hearings in the municipalities of Ferros, Naque, Conselheiro Pena (MG) e Linhares (ES) were convened by IBAMA. Several criticisms of the environmental licensing process, the undemocratic character of the hearings and the environmental impact reports were carried out by associations (Associação de Defesa e Desenvolvimento Ambiental de Ferros/MG-ADDAF and Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores-MPA),  by virtual signature campaigns (Avaaz, 2014) and by some municipal administrations in the path of the pipeline (in Açucena, in Conceição do Mato Dentro and in Rio Acima). Also, an independent technical report, analyzing the EIA/RIMA, was delivered and filed at IBAMA in February 2014, signed by geographers, biologists, oceanographers, historians, environmental advisers. The document pointed out that the EIA / RIMA did not specify in detail the impacts the municipalities where the pipeline will pass, especially on traditional communities (including Krenak Indigenous Land, Quilombola communities and artisanal fishermen) and small farmers, as well as other dozens of small villages. The locational decision of the port complex was also criticized by the report, especially for the threat to the reproductive cycles of the marine biota that the system would provoke. Finally, in the same period, a Bill of Popular Initiative was drafted by citizens of Ferros and some neighboring municipalities, with ADDAF participation, aiming to include in art. 5 of Law 15,082 of 2004 the Santo Antônio River and its tributaries to the set of permanent preservation rivers of the State of Minas Gerais. They argued that these rivers, which are part of the Rio Doce macro-basin, are inserted in areas considered as High and Extremely High priority for the conservation of biodiversity by the Federal Government and play a decisive role in the regional ecological balance.

In May of 2015, in line with the recommendation of the independent technical report, IBAMA concluded by the infeasibility of the pipeline and port projects. The Institute's team recommended that a new location was studied for the port and that several clarifications were provided. The main reason was that the installation of the port terminal would cause irreversible and non-mitigable impacts on the species Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback turtle). The terminal also interposed two priority ecological corridors of Espírito Santo. IBAMA also considered that there was a legal impediment to the construction of the pipeline due to the cancellation of the certificate of compliance of the use and occupation of the soil by the Municipality of the municipality of Capitão Andrade in Minas Gerais.

At the same time, the reduction in the international price of iron ore changed the planning of Manabi S.A.. First, the company underwent a merger with the Brazilian shipping company Asgaard in 2015. After the merger, Manabi was renamed MLog. Secondly, MLog's focus shifted from mining to logistics of port terminals and shipping. In order to continue the port terminal in Linhares, MLgo redesigned the project to install an industrial pole and a multipurpose port, which would then be licensed only by the environmental agency of Espírito Santo, increasing its possibility of approval. The mining project in Morro do Pilar stagnated and only in 2018 the MLog restarted the licensing process. In February 2018, the company made a request to extend the deadline of the Preliminary License (LP), which would expire in November 2018. Depending on the licensing and the investments made, the extraction could start in 2021.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Iron ore mining and mineroduct, Morro do Pilar, Minas Gerais, Brazil
State or province:Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo
Location of conflict:Morro do Pilar and 23 other municipalities through which the pipeline passes
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral processing
Mineral ore exploration
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Iron ore

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The nominal production capacity is of 25.5 million metric tons per annum (Mtpa) of iron ore.

The reserve is of 1.33 billion tons of measured and indicated resources and 312 million tons of inferred resources.

Mineroduct (pipeline) of 512 km.

Project area:16000 (excluding the pipeline)
Level of Investment:2,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:10,000
Start of the conflict:22/10/2012
Company names or state enterprises:MLog S.A. from Brazil - The company owns iron ore mining rights in Morro do Pilar, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The company also owns 3,000 acres of land for the development of industrial multi-port in Linhares, Brazil.
Relevant government actors:IBAMA - Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources
Federal Public Prosecutor
Public Ministry of Minas Gerais
Government of the State of Minas Gerais
City Hall of Morro do Pilar
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:ADDAF – Associação de Defesa e Desenvolvimento Ambiental de Ferros.
Associação de Conservação Ambiental Orgânica (ACAÓ) – Santa Maria de Itabira.
Brazilian Association of Anthropology.
Group Environmental Thematic Studies (GESTA) of the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Quilombolas and Krenak
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Other Environmental impactsThreat to Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback turtle).
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:At first it seemed that the movements contrary to the project had succeeded in suspending the project as a whole. IBAMA determinedy the infeasibility of the pipeline and port projects and recommended that a new location was studied for the port and that several clarifications of impacts were provided. After the reduction in the international price of iron ore, MLog's focus shifted from mining to logistics of port terminals and shipping.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The suspension of the project was only temporary and was due in large part to the negative outlook for the international iron ore market. From 2018, the company restarted the licensing process at the Morro do Pilar mine, and the mobilization against the project now appears to be less important. One possible reason is that a more fragmented licensing process (the pipeline is not yet being licensed and the port is likely to be licensed from the Espírito Santo environmental agency rather than IBAMA) generates less articulation between different organizations and associations.

Sources and Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Von Sperling, B., Pereira, D. 2018. Conflitos e contradições no município de Ferros: o mineroduto Manabi. Revue Franco-Brésilienne de Géographie, v.35.

GESTA (UFMG). 2016. Relatório de Pesquisa Morro do Pilar - Complexo Minerário Manabi/MLog. Projeto Nova fronteira minerária, land-grabbing e regimes fundiários: consequências socioambientais e limites da gestão de conflitos (CNPq 445550/2014-7).ório-de-pesquisa-Manabi-Morro-do-Pilar.-2016.pdf

GESTA. 2014. Parecer sobre o mineroduto Morro do Pilar-MG a Linhares-ES. Programa de Extensão: Observatório dos Conflitos Ambientais no estado de Minas Gerais: tecnologias sociais e justiça ambiental (SIEX-500301) Coordenação: Profª. Drª. Andréa Zhouri.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Observatory of the environmental conflicts of Minas Gerais - description of the Morro do Pilar project

Map of conflicts of environmental injustice and health in Brazil - description of the mining conflict in Morro do Pilar and the pipeline in Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo

"MLog resumes a millionaire project in Morro do Pilar": News from March 2018 with excerpts from an interview with the Technical Director of Mlog

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Avaaz Petition to IBAMA: "Do not license the MANABI (pipeline and port) enterprise!"

Other documents

Traditional community of Morro do Pilar Source:ão-no-caminho-da-manabi-1.942087

Meta information

Contributor:Beatriz Macchione Saes, Usp, [email protected]
Last update21/07/2018



Traditional community of Morro do Pilar