MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Brazilian Indians invade company town of iron ore miner CVRD

Published by MAC on 2006-10-18

BRAZIL

[Editorial note: We strongly oppose the highly negative image conferred on the Xikrin people in this article (clearly inspired by a press statement from CVRD) which presents them as "invaders" of what is effectively their own territory. Last year they were also said to have invaded the company, although the administator of FUNAI (the "Indian Protection" service) denied their had been any show of violence]

Brazilian Indians invade company town of iron ore miner CVRD

Associated Press

18th October 2006

SAO PAULO, Brazil Indians wielding war clubs and bows and arrows stormed an Amazon mining complex, shutting it down in an apparent demand for more compensation from the world's largest iron ore miner, the company said Wednesday.

Brazil's CVRD said daily production of 250,000 metric tons (275,000 U.S. tons) of iron ore was halted after about 200 Indians from the Xikrin tribe occupied the company town of Carajas.

While the company said it had not received any direct demands, the invasion appeared to be an attempt "to pressure the company to increase financial contributions to the indigenous community."

The Indians occupied an ore export freight railway terminal Tuesday night, and prevented hundreds of workers from leaving for home by seizing the keys of buses that transport employees to and from the mining complex. They also looted a company restaurant and made away with workers' possessions, the company said in a statement.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries during the rampage, but the Indians remained at the complex Wednesday and about 5,000 employees were unable to return to work, CVRD said.

Carajas, which was built by CVRD, is in the largely undeveloped state of Para, about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) north of Sao Paulo. It produces about 70 million metric tons (78 million U.S. tons) of iron ore yearly and is being expanded by Companhis Vale do Rio Doce SA.

The Xikrins, who live in two remote villages, could not immediately be reached for comment. Brazil's Indian Missionary Council, a Roman Catholic Church-backed group that helps many tribes, said it was trying to learn details about the occupation but had no immediate comment.

The invasion came eight months after Indian tribes blocked a railroad from Carajas in protests over health care, reducing CVRD's first-quarter iron ore shipments by 1 million metric tons (1.1 million U.S. tons).

CVRD said it now contributes about 9 million reals (US$4.3 million, *3.4 million) annually to the Xikrins under a social-development agreement signed in June.

he company said it would pursue criminal charges against the Indians, and that it had obtained a judge's order Wednesday that would allow authorities to evict them using force if necessary. But groups in Brazil that occupy private property usually abandon the locations after negotiations with authorities.

CVRD called the invasion a form of extortion, and said it could result in the cancellation of the social-development deal.

The company "will not give in to blackmail of any kind," CVRD said. CVRD shares were virtually unchanged in late Wednesday afternoon trading on Sao Paulo's benchmark Ibovespa exchange.

The company's American depository shares rose 0.6 percent, or 14 cents, to US$24.03 (*19.16) on the New York Stock Exchange.

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