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Study shows that Cargill port has been operating in Itaituba (Pará) for 10 years irregularly

A new study reveals the systematic violation of Indigenous people’s rights and lack of monitoring by the Environment Secretariat of the State of Pará.

Photo: M'Boia Produções

Terra de Direitos releases the second part of the study “No License For Destruction – Cargill and the violation of rights in the Tapajós” (“Sem Licença Para Destruição – Cargill e as violações de direitos no Tapajós”, in Portuguese), focusing on the environmental irregularities, impacts, and violation of rights promoted against the traditional peoples of the municipality of Itaituba, in western Pará. Present in 70 countries and in Brazil since 1965, Cargill – a private American multinational company – is one of the world leaders in the export of agricultural commodities in the country. In the city of Itaituba (state of Pará), it operates a port since 2013 without complying with the obligations established by the State Secretariat for Environment and Sustainability (Secretaria de Estado de Meio Ambiente e Sustentabilidade – Semas, in Portuguese) for granting environmental licensing for the multinational company to keep its activities running.

Amid the threats to Indigenous territorial rights that have intensified in recent years, such as the suspension of policies of demarcation of Indigenous territories and flexibilization of environmental legislation, Indigenous peoples and social movements in the region are fighting and resisting the intense changes caused by the port complex located in Miritituba, a district of the Municipality of Itaituba, which brings together about 19 ports – including Cargill’s.

The unprecedented survey prepared by Terra de Direitos identifies a series of socio-environmental impacts and irregularities committed by Cargill in the environmental licensing process and concludes that the company did not carry out prior, free, and informed consultation with the Munduruku Indigenous peoples, nor the environmental impact studies that would predict the damage caused to the Indigenous people living in the company’s area of influence in Itaituba. The right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consultation is provided for in Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and establishes that traditional peoples and communities must be consulted when an enterprise or law affects their territory or way of life.

Cargill’s Environmental Impact Study and Report (Estudo e Relatório de Impacto Ambiental – EIA/RIMA, in Portuguese) – necessary steps for providing environmental licensing – were filed with the Secretariat for Environment and Sustainability (Semas) of Pará in 2013, as an initial part of the enterprise and within the legal norms of the environmental licensing process. However, according to the study “No License For Cargill,” Cargill's EIA/RIMA presented an absence of essential information and low technical quality in numerous aspects, resulting in the omission of impacts to local residents and, especially, affected traditional peoples and communities, such as the Munduruku Indigenous people.

The State Secretariat for Environment and Sustainability (Semas), the body responsible for issuing licenses for enterprises and ventures in the state of Pará, had – and still has – a central role in granting licenses to Cargill, even in the face of irregularities. By granting the Prior (2014), Installation (2014), and Operation (2017) licenses to the company, in the face of a process with irregularities and without consulting the Indigenous people, the public agency failed to fulfill its attribution to conduct in-depth examinations on the consistency of the diagnoses of the Environmental Impact Study and Report (EIA/RIMA).

In addition, another omission falls on the Environment Secretariat: the failure to require and monitor compliance with the conditions. In the 2017 Operating License, Semas established as a condition for renewing the license for Cargill that the Study of the Indigenous Component in the Munduruku territories of Praia do Mangue and Praia do Índio be conducted within 04 months (120 days), i.e., expiring in August 2017. However, there is no evidence that this study has been conducted.

Later in 2019, a decision within the licensing process of another port in Itaituba – of the company Rio Tapajós Logística (RTL) – the National Indigenous Foundation (Fundação Nacional dos Povos Indígenas – Funai, in Portuguese) issued a Term of Reference containing guidelines for conducting Indigenous studies. This document established, once again, as a condition for renewal of Cargill’s license (and of all port companies in Miritituba) the completion of the study and consultation with the Munduruku Indigenous people of the mid-Tapajós. Again, the study and consultation with the Munduruku people were not carried out.

In April of this year, Cargill completes one year without submitting the renewal of the Operation License. While Semas is silent about the irregularities in Cargill’s studies, the company benefits and continues to operate in the Tapajós region, in the state of Pará, under a pattern of irregularities and human rights violations against traditional peoples and communities – just as occurred in the Port of Santarém.  

The constant inspection and monitoring, which should be carried out by the public body and which is essential as part of the environmental licensing for dimensioning the impacts brought about by the enterprises, has been a failure and places the communities and traditional peoples in a scenario of devastation and violation of rights.

"Environmental licensing only makes sense if it has deadlines. The rationale here, of precaution and prevention, makes the enterprise constantly be inspected and correspond to the legislation. Imagine a restaurant that always needs to renew its permit to prove that it is not damaging the health of its customers. Cargill is still authorized without being inspected. In other words, it continues to contaminate the Tapajós River. The case of Cargill Itaituba is one of the most blatant when it comes to large enterprises that violate rights in the Pará Amazon because the company has always been aware of the obligation to conduct the Indigenous Component Study. Semas, which forced Cargill to follow ILO Convention 169, left the obligation merely on paper and at the same time turned its back on the Tapajós,” highlighted the legal counsel department of Terra de Direitos, which follows up on cases of rights violations in the Tapajós region of Pará.

Some ports for agribusiness, several burdens for communities and traditional peoples
The port expansion fostered by the advance of agribusiness into the Tapajós region and the alternative export route called Arco Norte have brought a series of impacts for traditional populations. The Cargill Port – together with the other ports in Itaituba and Miritituba – was responsible for modifying the landscape and the social, economic, and spatial dynamics in these ten years of presence in the region.

For the Munduruku Indigenous population, the socio-environmental impacts were added to the non-recognition of their territories. In the environmental impact studies presented by Cargill, only two Indigenous villages are identified (Praia do Índio and Praia do Mangue), however, in the report that aims to present the impacts and remedial actions for the damage caused by the company, the Munduruku Indigenous people had their existence completely ignored and denied.

“Look, above all, we have the question of humanity, the Indigenous peoples’ right to consultation, right? The right to live, our right to feed ourselves, and the right to practice the way of life that we were taught years ago because all our rights are being violated, whether in culture or in a socio-traditional way. So, this capitalist vision is destroying our way of living, violating these rights that we have in the Constitution, which today is being torn up and burned by people who have no commitment whatsoever when it comes to the government. Others much less so, right?” declared an Indigenous man from the Praia do Mangue village, which is located on the left bank of the Tapajós River, in front of the company’s port.

For the legal counsel department of Terra de Direitos, by completely ignoring the existence of the Munduruku Indigenous people in Itaituba, Cargill offered no possibility of reparation for damages and did not guarantee that the Indigenous people would be listened to and give any opinion on the process of installing the ports, thus violating the right to free, prior, and informed consultation – safeguarded by ILO Convention 169. 

“This framework of human rights violations has at its root the lack of proper identification of impacts on Indigenous peoples and traditional communities. Without this, we are dealing now – 10 years later – with the need for recognition and the right to reparation. And it will still require prior, free, and informed consultation. It is important to highlight that the Munduruku people were among the first to produce their Consultation Protocol and present it to the Brazilian State. Other traditional communities in the Tapajós basin also have their consultation protocols precisely to enforce Convention 169.”

The study also points out that the joint and simultaneous impacts of the ports were felt by the entire population of Itaituba and Miritituba District. According to the Council for the Supervision of Investments and Ventures in the District of Miritituba, before the installation, the District had a population of 5 thousand people, and during the process of installing the companies, it reached 13 thousand, with the arrival of the workers for the construction of the project. This led to a high demand for land, real estate speculation, and an overload on public services such as healthcare and education, as well as an increase in the number of bars and cases of sexual exploitation of children and women.

Those who had the river as their main means of subsistence, leisure, or transportation were strongly affected by the privatization of the Tapajós River banks. The increase in the circulation of ferryboats and cargo barges resulted in the contamination of the rivers and fish, as well as the need for greater displacement in the search for food. “And the impact, especially on the Aldeia do Mangue, was very big, right? Mainly because they have to go to the other side to fish, and there are several rafts and barges. And also when the truck comes, the truck goes to the soybean silo and it makes a lot of dust, it looks like a lot of sand falling. It’s dust from the soybean and the silo. Even on the barge, a lot of dust is falling”, denounces the Pariri Indigenous Association –  which legally represents the Munduruku people of Médio Tapajós, in eleven villages: Praia do Mangue, Praia do Índio, Sawre Apompu, Sawre Juybu (Sawre Bapim Indigenous Land), Dace Watpu, Sawre Muybu, Boa Fé, Karo Muybu, Dajekapap, Sawre Aboy, and Poxo Muybu (Sawre Muybu Indigenous Land).

As the study identifies, the impacts brought about by Cargill’s activities in the Tapajós region are extensive and innumerable. And with the omission and passivity of the environmental agencies, the tendency is that the company will continue to guarantee its operating license even without presenting any type of measure to repair the damage – either to the municipality that suffers with the pressure on public services resulting from the population boom brought by the ports, or to the traditional communities ignored in the environmental licensing that have to live amidst the soybean and corn monocultures export route and with the consequences brought by these enterprises.

About the study
The study released on Thursday (April 27) is the second part of the material on Cargill’s impacts and rights violations in the Tapajós region. Focusing on the company’s port in Miritituba (Itaituba/PA), this study complements the content of the No License For Cargill website, which also brings the case of the port in the city of Santarém (PA).

The full material is available at

Actions: Business and Human Rights Violations
Axes: Human rights policy and culture