Today, August 20, groups in Brazil are staging a massive day of action against the proposed Belo Monte Dam in over 20 cities across Brazil. Groups such as Amazon Watch and others around the world are coordinating an international solidarity day of action on August 22 outside Brazilian embassies around the world. If built, the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River would be the 3rd largest dam in the world. The project would flood 668 km2 of forest and arable land, and displace over 20,000 people. Another, less talked about piece of this project is its connection to massive mining projects in the Amazon region.
According to Amazon Watch, roughly 30% of the electricity generated by the Belo Monte dam will be purchased by the state utility to power the expansion of large-scale, industrial mining the Vale corporation’s Caraj’s iron mine and Salobo copper mine, Alcoa’s Juriti bauxite mine, and Anglo American’s Jacar nickel mine, among others.
Recently Vale, the world’s 2nd largest mining company, put up $1.5 billion dollars to buy a 10% stake in the Belo Monte project. The partnership with Vale has the potential to allow Vale to take their iron ore and copper mining to a new level. One of the world’s largest deposits of iron sits in the Belo Monte area. International Rivers Zachary Hurwitz does a great job of laying out Vale’s history of using dams to power massive mining projects. He argues that these projects bring a troubling legacy of massive displacements, social conflicts, and ecological devastation. Unfortunately, this also appears to be the case with the Belo Monte dam, much like Peru’s Inambari dam and Chile’s HidroAysen dam, two other controversial dam projects with ties to industrial mining. It’s time to break destructive cycle of megadams and large-scale mines.