The mining company Anglo American, responsible for the Minas-Rio project, uses a set of strategies to isolate those affected by its projects and to build a dominant discourse on its performance in the region. This is the analysis of researcher Ana Flávia Santos, from the Group of Studies on Environmental Issues (Gesta) from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).
She mentions, for example, the attempt to individualize all issues and to avoid making a collective bargaining process. "The company tries to isolate communities. It makes promises on improvements and favors to divide people. It is a process of co-optation that appears to be freely negotiated. But people often find themselves without a real option", she points out.
Juliana Deprá, an agent of Caritas Brasileira Regional Minas Gerais and a member of the Movement for Popular Sovereignty in Mining (MAM), recalls that the company is stands accused of profiting from the Apartheid regime in South Africa, paying much less to black workers. According to Deprá, this history shows a trademark in the company’s trajectory: to divide people and to co-opt them. "Anglo is currently using this mechanism when trying to divide the people into who is, supposedly, against or in favor of development", she says.
"Anglo's criminalizing discourse is very strong. We can clearly see that they create a climate of hostility and they encourage threats. And they use the threat of interrupting activities for this purpose", says Lucas Furiati, a researcher of the Nucleus of Citizenship Program of the Law Faculty of UFMG, which works in the region.
Furiati's statements were confirmed by the reporter: when contacting Anglo American about the allegations, the mining company replied, in a note, that "any delay in the licensing process could paralyze Minas-Rio's activities in the near future, which would cause losses for all, not just for the company."
According to the company, at the peak of work for Phase 3,800 new jobs will be generated, of which 100 will be definitive. "We estimate that at least 30% of the workers will be from the region," states the company
Popular lawyer Larissa Vieira, a member of the Margarida Alves Collective, who also follows this case, analyzes that the popular action that called for the suspension of the public hearing, which would legitimize the expansion of Minas-Rio, was a way people found to react to a series of violations of their rights.
"This popular action questions the lack of transparency as the company did not disclose, in an objective way, the environmental impact studies." It is the right to information that is being violated, and whoever does not have information can not participate effectively," she argues. It is impossible to remain silent when facing so many violations and it is the duty of the Judiciary to intervene when there is abuse and illegality, as happened in this case", she adds.
Of the estimated 800 jobs, only 30% would be for people in the region
According to Vieira, this case is not the only one involving conflicts with mining companies. A recent case is that of Father Gilberto Teixeira, who received death threats on February 19, due to his protests against the expansion of the bauxite mining projects in the Brigadeiro mountain range in Minas Gerais, Belisario district in Muriaé.
"What is happening in Conceição do Mato Dentro is not an isolated case. We are accompanying other cases of social advocates who are being threatened because they are being critical, or because they are acting against the installation of large mining projects in their territories. This is the logic of these projects: there is a State, which is usually subordinate, that prioritizes the interests of companies and leaves the communities in a situation of greater fragility. Defending collective rights becomes a risk when you are facing mining projects", says Maria Júlia Gomes de Andrade, from the coordination of MAM.
She adds that there is a pattern for these situations and that the case of the five affected people "is not a point outside the curve."
"The division of the people in the communities is often encouraged by companies. This pattern is repeated in many cases, in many states. We have had cases in Pará, in Bahia, others in Minas. Unfortunately, there are many cases", she said.
Edited by: Camila Rodrigues da Silva | Translation: Merel van der Mark