Brazil to stop the Volta Grande project over environmental concerns
The Volta Grande open-pit project is slated to start operating in 2016 and become Brazil's largest gold mine. It is in the northern state of Para next to another controversial project, Belo Monte, which is designed to become the world's third largest hydroelectric dam and has also been the target of lawsuits and public prosecutors.
Environmentalists and federal authorities are saying the double impact of the two massive projects on the habitat of two local Indian communities straddling the Xingu River has not been properly studied. Federal prosecutors have asked the state government of Para, which is in charge of licensing for the project, to deny permission until the impact of the project on the nearby Arara and Juruna people can be studied.
Thais Santi, the local federal prosecutor in Altamira where the mine is located, also wants Brazil's federal Indian affairs agency Funai to get involved. The state of Para's environmental office, SEMA, which is responsible for the permit, has said that studies on the communities can be done after a permit is granted. It is not clear when state officials could decide on the permit.
Belo Sun, based in Toronto, ON, Canada, said it is dealing only with state officials because they are the ones who issue the permits. Federal prosecutors also question whether Belo Sun actually plans to build a mine twice the size of the project first described in an environmental assessment it gave state officials. ■