MAC: Mines and Communities

Brazil's iron ore mining doubles its CO2 emissions

Published by MAC on 2015-02-12
Source: PlanetArk

The world's biggest iron ore miner, Brazil's Vale (formerly CVRD), made a notorious blotch on the environment after opening up the Carajas region of Para state in the late 1970's.

Apart from uprooting indigenous communities, its massive railroad drove a swathe through virgin jungle, enabling numerous entrepreneurs to upgrade the ore by using charcoal furnaces which not only devastated forests, but also signficantly raised the amount of Brazil's global greenhouse gas emissions.

The company switched to coal and then again back to charcoal, supposedly from plantation forests, in conformity with the UN's Clean Development Mechanism.

But, according  to a recent report from Nature Climate Change journal, the charcoal coninued being sourced from primary forests between 2000 and 2007, resulting in carbon dioxide emissions actually doubling.

Brazil climate change plan backfires, doubling steel emissions

Chris Arsenault


11 February 2015

A plan to reduce climate-changing emissions from Brazil's steel industry has failed, causing the amount of carbon pollution produced by the sector to double in less than a decade, researchers said.

Brazilian steel producers switched their energy source from coal to charcoal from forests, causing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to rise to 182 million tonnes in 2007 from 91 million tonnes in 2000, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"Increased global demand for steel, and a lack of available plantation forest in Brazil, increased the industry's use of charcoal sourced from native forests, which is not carbon neutral and emits up to nine times more CO2 per tonne of steel than coal," Laura Sonter, a University of Vermont scientist and the study's lead author, said in a statement.

Charcoal derived from plantation forests is carbon neutral, but Brazilian steel producers opted for charcoal sourced from native forests, which has a high carbon footprint and causes "significant deforestation", Sonter said in an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The findings have implications beyond Brazil, as the global steel industry generates about 7 percent of all CO2 emissions caused by humans, scientists said.

Analysts who proposed the switch had not thought through the implications of the new energy source, meaning a plan aimed at improving the environment did more harm than good, they added.

Brazil's energy switch was linked to the U.N.-backed Clean Development Mechanism, which is meant to incentivise developing nations to adopt more environmentally friendly policies.

"Climate change mitigation strategies must consider all sources of carbon emissions from an industry, not just focus on minimizing coal use," Sonter said.

"Failing to do so in Brazil's steel industry caused significant deforestation of native forests for charcoal production and, as a result, actually increased industry emissions," she added.

(Editing by Megan Rowling)


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