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Canadian company goes ahead with gold mining project at Belo Monte

Canadian company goes ahead with gold mining project at Belo Monte

Source : Valor Econômico
The multimillion dollar project that plans on exploring for gold in the vicinity of the Belo Monte power plant, which is under construction on the Xingu River in Altamira in the state of Pará, is still on.

A public hearing was held yesterday in the nearby municipality of Senador José Porfírio, located 50 km from Altamira. It was the second meeting on the subject organized by the Secretariat of Environment (Sema) of the State of Pará and the Canadian company, Belo Sun Mining, that promises to transform the Xingu into “the largest gold exploration project in Brazil.” The first hearing took place in September last year.

The goal of the meeting was to debate together with the population and experts on the information contained in the Environmental Impact Assessment (Rima) prepared by Belo Sun and to offer Sema the possibility to define the viability of environmental licensing of the project.

Belo Sun, part of the Canadian group, Forbes & Manhattan, a private merchant bank investing in international mining projects, intends to invest US$1.076billion in the extraction and processing of gold. The average production, according to the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment, is expected to be 4,684 kilos per year, corresponding to an annual turnover of approximately R$ 540 million.

For the Xingu gold exploitation, the company intends to excavate 37.80 million tonnes of ore during the first 11 years of the project. Forecasts expect the exploration to last about twenty years. In February of last year, the company’s environmental studies were submitted to the Secretariat of Environment. According to Belo Sun, their project will have no impact on the site nor on the infrastructure of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant that is being built in the Big Bend of the Xingu River by the Norte Energia consortium. The mining project would have no impact on the riverbed either.
Norte Energia avoids the subject, but sources linked to the consortium declared to the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that the company does not want to hear about dynamite explosions near the dam. The opinion is that the mining project will increase socio-environmental complications for the plant.

The initial time schedule drawn up by Belo Sun has already been jeopardized. The Canadian company had planned to receive the preliminary license before the end of last year and was, therefore, also counting on the issuance of the consequent operation license in the first semester of 2013 and starting the operations in June.

The project is followed up closely by the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) in Pará, which had raised doubts on the matter and requested more information from the company. Given the complexity of the project and the direct link to the Belo Monte plant, the MPF questions whether or not the licensing of the project should be treated by Ibama. Belo Sun denies any irregularity and declares that they are acting entirely in accordance with the country’s environmental law.

Currently four Canadian companies are amongst the five largest industrial gold explorers in Brazil: Kinross, Yamana, Jaguar Mining and Aura Gold. The fifth company on the list is South African AngloGold Ashanti. All together they control about 90% of industrial extraction.

© Valor Econômico / Par André Borges - translated from french into english by Ouda Verhoogen

Date : 11/01/2013

Author : Mathieu BONNET