Understand the legal back-and-forth on mining in Serra do Curral, in MG


In a decision taken in the early hours of April 30, the Minas Gerais State Environmental Policy Council approved a license for a mining company to remove 31 million tons of iron ore over 13 years in Serra do Curral, a green wall of environmental, cultural and historical importance in the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte.

The authorization provoked a reaction from environmentalists, the city hall of the capital and the Public Ministry, authors so far of six actions in progress in state and federal courts against the project of the company Tamisa (Taquaril Mineração SA)

Among the arguments against the project are the alleged disrespect for the law of land use and occupation, the need to position a federal body for its implementation and the lack of consultation with a quilombola community in the region.

Another problem pointed out is that the area in which mining is planned is part of the state process of tipping the Serra do Curral in progress at Iepha (State Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage of Minas Gerais).

“We’ve been fighting for the Serra do Curral to be listed as a state landmark since 2017. That’s what should have already come out, and not a license for the exploration of iron ore in the region”, points out the coordinator of the Manuelzão environmental project, Marcus Polignano.

In a note, the government of Minas states that Iepha convened for the next Wednesday (27) an extraordinary meeting of Conep (State Council for Cultural Heritage) to deliberate on the provisional protection of Serra do Curral, which will be valid for new ventures.

“Governor Romeo Zema [Novo] reiterates the commitment of this management to make a listing with legal and sustainable support so that Serra do Curral crosses generations as the postcard of Belo Horizonte”, the note continues.

The Thames mining project in Serra do Curral foresees the removal of 100 hectares of Atlantic Forest. According to Polignano, the region still has between 50 and 60 springs, which do not supply water to the capital, but flow into the Rio das Velhas, one of the main tributaries of the São Francisco.

In the evaluation of the project coordinator Manuelzão, the large number of actions against mining in the region shows that there are several actors for the preservation of the mountain range.

Serra do Curral has its north face facing Belo Horizonte, in the extreme south of the capital. This piece has already been listed by the city hall.

The area that the Thames obtained a license to mine is in the neighboring municipality of Nova Lima. One of the lawsuits against the project argues that the project cannot be implemented on the site because it violates the rules of the municipality’s land occupation law.

Part of the actions has not yet been analyzed. Others have already been placed in the first instance. Only one has already had an injunction on appeal, issued by the TJ-MG (Court of Justice of Minas Gerais). It is this action that, today, prevents mining in Serra do Curral.

The lawsuit is filed by the Municipality of Belo Horizonte, which was able to reactivate an Iepha ordinance that prevents mining in the area licensed for the Thames with the decision.

The Justice also determined that only a new decision, to be taken in a collegiate way by the court, will eventually be able to overturn the ban.

Earlier, a decision by the 1st Court of the Public Treasury and Municipalities of Belo Horizonte suspended the project — a ban lifted after a hearing between the parties.

The process was sent to the 5th Court of the Public Treasury and Municipalities of the capital. With the decision of the TJ-MG in the action of the city hall, however, the prohibition for the beginning of mining through the Thames follows.

The company claims that, so far, it has not started installing equipment and structures to remove iron ore from Serra do Curral.

The mining company also says that, despite the actions, it will not give up on the venture and will continue to seek its rights, “since it is in full compliance with current legislation”.

Next, what is at stake in the project and the status of the actions.

Actions against the Thames venture

action 1

  • Author: Federal Public Ministry
  • Request: Suspension of the enterprise due to lack of consultation with the affected quilombola community during the licensing process. Consultation is provided for in the Constitution
  • Status: Request denied. Prosecutor will appeal

action 2

  • Author: Federal Public Ministry
  • Request: That the suppression of 100 hectares of Atlantic forest to be carried out by the mining company pass through Ibama, and not only through state bodies, as happened
  • Status: Request denied. Prosecutor will appeal

action 3

  • Author: State Public Ministry
  • Request: Suspension of the enterprise for not complying with the Nova Lima Land Use and Occupancy Law (MG)
  • Situation: Request denied in first and second instances

action 4

  • Author: State Public Ministry
  • Request: Suspension of the enterprise for being within an area that is part of the process of tipping in progress at Iepha
  • Status: Still undecided

action 5

  • Author: Belo Horizonte City Hall
  • Request: Resumption of Iepha ordinance that prevented mining in the region
  • Situation: Injunction granted by the TJ-MG. The company will appeal

action 6

  • Author: Popular Action filed by former deputy mayor of Belo Horizonte Paulo Lamac (Rede)
  • Request: Damage to environmental and landscape heritage
  • Situation: It became a reason for banning the enterprise, but the ban was withdrawn after a hearing. It is in progress at the 5th Court of Public Finance of Belo Horizonte

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