Piquiá de Baixo and Santa Rosa dos Pretos:examples of fighting mining
In Brazil, the international campaign “Water for people! Transnationals: Respect Our Rights” is supported by Justiça nos Trilhos (Justice on the Rails) and has as its protagonists two communities from Maranhão: Piquiá de Baixo, in the municipality of Açailândia, and the quilombo Santa Rosa dos Pretos, in the rural area of Itapecuru-Mirim.
The two communities have been fighting a historic struggle against the violence committed by transnational mining company Vale S.A.
In Açailândia, the Piquiá de Baixo community has been organizing for over 10 years in search of collective resettlement trying to escape the high levels of air, noise and water pollution caused by Vale and the steelmakers that settled in the region in the 1980s.
Since 2007 the community has been accompanied by Justiça nos Trilhos and, since 2010, they receive architectural technical advice from the Usina CTAH. In 2013, after much struggle, residents conquered the expropriation of land for the construction of the new neighborhood, away from pollution.
The Community Association of Piquiá Residents used Brazil’s only housing program, Minha Casa Minha Vida, to get funding. The “social organization” modality of the housing program made it possible to self-manage the work according to the community’s principles and dreams. Construction of the houses and the new neighborhood began in 2019.
Now, using this international campaign as a communication and articulation tool, families in Piquiá de Baixo seek to ensure that the Piquiá River and other streams in the region are no longer contaminated by the transnational mining company and the steelmakers.
Santa Rosa dos Pretos: the struggle to recover a cemented creek
For over 80 years, the quilombolas (slave descendant) community of Santa Rosa dos Pretos, in Itapecuru-Mirim, northern Maranhão, have been facing the pollution, silting and grounding of their creeks and rivers, either by transnational mining company Vale S.A.’s Carajás Railroad, or the Transnordestina Railway, the three Eletronorte power lines and the two by CEMAR (Companhia Energética do Maranhão), or by the federal road BR 135.
All of these large enterprises violate the right to water of the quilombola population, who also loses fish, their traditional source of food and income. The big projects also cut up the quilombola territory, steal portions of productive land, cause noise and air pollution, and hundreds of road and railways accident deaths.
The leaders of Santa Rosa dos Pretos have been denouncing these violations for years, in various instances of public agencies, in the press, in discussions with social movements and allied organizations.
In 2011, the Federal Public Prosecution Office (MPF) filed a Public Civil Action against Vale S.A. and Ibama (Brazilian Environmental Institute) for violations committed against the quilombola territories of Santa Rosa dos Pretos and Monge Belo during the duplication of the Carajás Railroad, belonging to Vale S.A. With the legal support of Justiça nos Trilhos, Santa Rosa dos Pretos managed to get the transnational company sentenced in 2012 to carry out a series of reparations and actions to mitigate the impacts caused.
Among the reparations, is the recovery of a stream that the company cemented over and practically dried out. The stream (igarapé) had a reputation among the quilombolas for being rich in fish and never drying, even during the northeastern summer.
Seven years after the conviction, the company never recovered the stream and did not fulfill most of its obligations in court.
Through the campaign, the quilombolas seek to further denounce this violation committed by Vale S.A. and ensure that, through articulation with other peoples affected by the Carajás Railroad, the transnational company recovers the stream that it has buried.
In addition to denouncing violations and spreading news of the struggles waged by the two communities against Vale S.A. and its abuses, the international campaign carried out in Brazil by Santa Rosa dos Pretos and Piquiá de Baixo has its main focus on the political networking between the youth groups of the two communities, in a way that them can recognize and support each other in the struggle for water, land and territory.
Throughout the campaign, youth exchange trips from the two communities are planned, as well as political formation activities and the production of journalistic content by the youth themselves, which will feed much of the Brazil page inserted in this international campaign website.
Communication was the tool of political struggle chosen for this process of integration and networking of the youths of Piquiá de Baixo and Santa Rosa dos Pretos.