PR | Expert report: Proposed gold mine in Brazilian Amazon presents unacceptable risk

Rede Xingu & Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre
Hydrogeologist recommends that Canadian company Belo Sun’s license be revoked.

(Altamira, Brazil, June 17, 2020) An expert study released today reveals serious deficiencies in the environmental impact assessment submitted to Brazilian authorities by Canadian mining company Belo Sun. The analysis exposes an unacceptable degree of risk that the tailings dam at the proposed Volta Grande gold mine will fail, contaminating the Xingu River and harming nearby indigenous and other communities.

Juruna (Yudja) chidren playing at Miratu village, Big Bend of the Xingu River
Juruna (Yudja) chidren playing at Miratu village, Big Bend of the Xingu River
Photo: Kelly Lima

The report’s author, Dr. Steven Emerman, explains that despite the presence of geological faults at the mine site, the company has not produced any seismicity studies. Nor has the dam been designed with seismic safety in mind, in violation of Brazilian tailings dam regulations.

Dr. Emerman also raises concerns about the company’s use of its tailings reservoir to capture water. Industry best practice is to prevent the flow of surface runoff into tailings ponds in order to minimize the risk of dam failure. Moreover, the report reveals that Belo Sun has provided contradictory information regarding its tailings storage plan to investors and Brazilian regulatory authorities. Dr. Emerman recommends that the project’s license be revoked.

Brazilian courts suspended Belo Sun’s installation license in 2017 because the company failed to study the project’s impact on indigenous and other traditional communities, or to consult these populations.

Local office of Belo Sun at Vila Ressaca, Big Bend of the Xingu River
Local office of Belo Sun at Vila Ressaca, Big Bend of the Xingu River
Photo: Isabel Harari - ISA

Belo Sun has been criticized for publishing misleading statements to bolster sagging interest in the project among potential investors, amidst growing evidence of social, environmental, financial and reputational risks.

Last week local movements Rede Xingu+ and Xingo Vivo para Sempre submitted Dr. Emerman’s report to government agencies responsible for project licensing. These organizations demand that additional studies be undertaken, which they argue are “indispensable to assess the social and environmental viability of Belo Sun’s mining project considering the grave risk to indigenous and other river-dwelling communities located next to the project and its tailings dam.”

Rede Xingu+ is an articulation of indigenous, riverine and partner organizations that work in the Xingu River basin.

Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre is a collective formed in 2008 by local, national and International civil society organizations; threatened indigenous and non-indigenous communities; and social, human rights and environmental movements that oppose the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Xingu River and that fight in defense of the rights of local people.

Ilha da Fazenda, Big Bend of the Xingu River
Ilha da Fazenda, Big Bend of the Xingu River
Photo: Marcelo Soubhia - ISA


Dr. Steven Emerman, <> Malach Consulting, +1-801-921-1228 (Utah, USA)

Brent Millikan, Amazon Program Director, International Rivers, <> +55-61-98153-7009 (Brasilia, Brazil). Mr. Millikan can connect journalists to representatives of Rede Xingu+ and Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre.

Karyn Keenan, Director, Above Ground,  <> +1-613-791-7532 (Ottawa, Canada) 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020