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Brazilian Mining Giant Given Green Light for Perilous Railway Plan

Awá in BrazilThe Brazilian Government has given the go-ahead for a railway project that severely endangers Earth’s most threatened tribe – Awá.

Mining giant Vale announced it has obtained an installation license for it’s doubling of the Carajás Railway, which transports iron ore from its notorious huge mine to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Awá are a small tribe of around 450, who have survived brutal massacres. They live in the eastern Amazon, and are one of the world’s last remaining nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes. Some members of the tribe remain uncontacted. The Awá depend on the forest for everything, and intensive logging is destroying their land.

The Great Carajás Industrial Project opened up this eastern part of Amazonia to development and exposed the Awá to invaders who have massacred whole families in the last three decades, and who continue to destroy much of their forest. Infact, the work of the illegal loggers and ranchers has already reached crisis point with some 30% of this legally-protected Awá reserve been cut down. The Awá’s forests are disappearing faster than any other indigenous area in Brazil.

Brazilian company Vale owns the world’s largest iron ore mine in this region, transporting its lucrative resources from the Amazon to the Atlantic Ocean in a 2 km-long train. The company wants to expand this stretch of railway line to allow these long trains to run simultaneously in both directions, to increase capacity. Last December, Vale workers set up a camp outside the Awá territory, despite not being granted an installation license to work in the area.

But in August this year, a judge halted the project, stating that Vale’s social and environmental impact studies were ‘insufficient’, and that the expansion could cause ‘extremely serious environmental degradation’. His ruling was soon overturned.

Last month, the railway was paralyzed by the Awá and hundreds more Indians protesting for their land rights to be upheld, and earlier this month some Awá made an unprecedented trip to Brasilia, to call for their forest to be protected.

The new license allows the company to start constructing a second railway line, to allow trains to run simultaneously in both directions, and increase capacity.

The Awá have warned that the expansion project will increase noise levels coming from the railway, scare away the game on which they rely for hunting, and result in more invasions.

One Awá man said, “We don’t accept the expansion of the train line which passes right in front of our territory. It is really bad! It makes a lot of noise! The hunters can’t find any game; the animals are scared off.”

Vale has not properly consulted the Awá about the plans, as required by Brazilian and international law.

Survival International is calling on the company to respect the Awá’s land rights, rather than putting their lives in jeopardy.

Source: Survival International.