Brazil judge stops expansion of rail line

AP News
Posted: Aug 02, 2012 3:56 PM
Brazil judge stops expansion of rail line

SAO PAULO (AP) — A federal judge has ordered Brazilian mining company Vale to suspend its planned expansion of a rail line in northern Brazil because it would endanger the livelihood of an Indian tribe living in the region.

The planned double tracking of the Carajas railroad line "could result in serious damage to protected areas and to the traditional lifestyles of the Awa Guaja tribe," Judge Ricardo Macieira said in his ruling that was posted Thursday on the court's website.

The British-based indigenous rights group Survival International has designated the Awa Guaja "the world's most endangered tribe."

The nearly 560-mile (900 kilometer) railway links Vale's Carajas iron ore mines in Para state to the Ponta da Madeira port terminal in the state of Maranhao.

Macieira said Vale would be fined 50,000 reals ($25,000) for each day that the company does not comply with his ruling.

Vale SA, the world's largest mining company, said in an emailed statement it would comply but that it planned to file an appeal.

It said it respects the environment and that all of its projects and operations will always be subjected to a "continuous dialogue."

The company said that Ibama, Brazil's environmental protection agency, has granted the environmental license needed to expand the rail line.

However, Macieira said the license was granted without the necessary environmental impact study and ordered Vale to conduct it.

In a statement, Survival International quoted a member of the Awa Guaja tribe as saying "We don't accept the expansion of the train line which passes right in front of our territory. It is really bad! It makes a lot of noise! The hunters can't find any game; the animals are scared off."

Like the Awa Guajas, tribes across Brazil are locked in the same struggle as they battle loggers, ranchers, miners and farmers who often invade government-demarcated reserves. Brazil's maturing economy is driving much of the development, as is renewed strength of the country's farm sector, which recently pushed through reforms loosening Brazil's forest protection law.