|CARAJÁS is an integrated mine-railroad-port system, built
and operated by Companhia Vale do Rio Doce-CVRD, and it is today
the backbone of the economic and social development of a huge area of north/northeastern
Today at Carajás, CVRD mines and processes 45 million tons of iron ore annually, as well as 1.5 millions tons of manganese, and 10,000 kilograms of gold. It is also preparing to produce copper, bauxite and other metals. All these activities are constantly monitored by an environmental policy that strives to conserve and recuperate delicate Amazon ecosystems.
Location: The Serra dos Carajás Range lies in Eastern Amazonia, southern Pará State, with an average altitude of 650 meters, and temperatures ranging from 18ºC to 30ºC, in the Parauapebas municipal area, some 680 kilometers south-west of the State capital of Belém, and 280 kilometers from Marabá, the largest town in the region. Please take note that air-travel in advance is required. In spite of it's remote location, Carajás is served by its own Airport (Airport code: CKS), wich is equipped to operate with large air-crafts. Flight frequency is not high, so advanced reservation through your travel agent is advised. Local facilities such as lodging, food, transportation and techinical support to the visitors will be provided by CVRD, the host.
History: On 31 July 1967, a Brazilian team of geologists from
Companhia Meridional de Minerações - CMM (a subsidiary of
U.S. Steel) headed by geologist Breno Augusto dos Santos, landed in a clearing
in Serra dos Carajás, where the ground had a visible overlay of
iron ore. In April 1970, it was established an association between CMM
and CVRD. Surveys and research continued until 1977, when U.S. Steel and
CMM, concerned over the high investments and poor outlook of the international
market for iron ore at the time, withdrew from the project. In June 1978,
the start-up of laying the Carajás 890 kilometers railroad, linking
Ponta da Madeira on the Maranhão coastline to the Carajás
reserves, effectively launched the implementation of the Carajás
Iron Ore Project, which was to cost CVRD US$ 3 billion in direct investments:
56% for the railroad, 20% for the mine and beneficiation plant, 14% for
the marine terminal, and 10% for infrastructure.
Iron Ore - Eighteen billion tons of high-grade iron ore, sufficient to guarantee production for another 400 years, at current levels. The first iron ore body selected for working in Carajás was the N4 sector (eastern area N4E) due to ease of access to the railroad, a very thin overburden and low levels of contaminants. Its original reserves totaled 1.4 and 1.2 billion tons respectively of geological and workable ore. Mining is carried out by conventional open-pit methods.
Gold - In 1985, CVRD and Brazil’s National Social and Economic Development Bank – BNDES prepared a credit contract covering the geological surveys and technological research projects needed to access the copper deposits in Carajás, in the Salobo, Pojuca and Igarapé Bahia areas. These studies were concluded in May 1988 by CVRD, and offered impressive results with regard to the possibility of mining gold in Igarapé Bahia. In June this same year, engineering studies began for setting up a pilot plant, which started up operations in March 1990. This project lies 107 kilometers west of the Carajás township. The deposit contains 14 million tons of gold ore, with a content of 4.75 grams of gold per ton, corresponding to 66,500 kilograms of gold. The working life of this venture is estimated at fifteen years. The industrial plant started up operations at Igarapé Bahia in 1991, and today has an annual output of 5,200 kilograms of refined gold. Mining operations are carried out by the open-pit method on five-meter benches. Some 70% of the ore is mined without use of explosives. The ore is treated in a hydro-metallurgical and gravimetric concentration circuit through the CIP - carbon in pulp process. Low-grade ore is processed through heap-leaching.
Manganese - The manganese deposits at Azul, Carajás were discovered in 1971. In order to study the area in greater detail, geological prospecting programs were scheduled and carried out, detecting reserves of 65 million tons of manganese ore: 53.7 million tons of metallurgical ore (used to produce ferro-manganese alloys) and 11.4 million tons of manganese dioxide (ideal for making electrolytic batteries) with manganese dioxide content of over 75%. The definitive beneficiation plant, with an annual processing capacity of one million tons, came onstream in 1985. This processing plant produces three products: lump ore (50%), sinter feed (40%), and gauge ore (10%). CVRD produces 750,000 tons of manganese a year, which is carried to São Luis by the Carajás railroad, in order to be shipped.
Copper – The Salobo copper deposit was discovered by surveyors from Rio Doce Geologia e Mineração S.A. - DOCEGEO, the CVRD prospecting subsidiary. The survey marked out the mineral-rich massif of the Serra do Salobo range, over three kilometers long, which contains, in addition to copper, reserves of gold, silver and molybdenum. The Salobo reserves are estimated at 1.2 billion tons of ore with an average copper content of 0.84%. With a working life scheduled at 29 years, this should produce a total of 255 million tons of ore. In order to carry out supplementary studies of the technical and economic feasibility of this area, as well as providing support for the implementation of the Salobo Copper Project, in 1993 the Salobo Metais metals company was set up, as an association between CVRD and the Mineração Morro Velho mining company, a subsidiary of Brazil’s Banco Bozano, Simonsen bank and South Africa’s Anglo American mining company. The Salobo Copper Project should start up commercial operations by late 1998, when it will produce 150,000 tons a year of copper, as well as eight tons of gold and 17 tons of silver.
Nickel - Discovered in 1974, the Vermelho nickel deposit lies 50 kilometers south of the Carajás industrial installations; its reserves of 44 million tons of ore have a nickel content of 1.5%. According to technological surveys, this lateritic ore is suitable for producing ferro-nickel 25 alloy, the raw material for stainless steel production. The Vermelho nickel project plans to set up a mineral-metallurgical complex alongside the deposit with an output estimated at 30,000 tons annually, to be carried some 75 kilometers by road to the Carajás Railroad, which will then transport it to the Ponta da Madeira Marine Terminal.
Townships – In order to make the Carajás Iron Ore Project operational, it was necessary to build townships close to the mine and along the railroad, fully equipped to handle all the requirements of employees and their families: housing, healthcare, education, stores, services and recreation.
Indigenous Communities – CVRD has always been concerned with minimizing the impact of the development process on indigenous communities in the area of influence of the Carajás Iron Ore Project – meaning some 17,000 Indians from fifteen nations at different levels of contact with Western civilization. To service these communities, CVRD signed an agreement with Brazil’s National Indian Foundation – FUNAI for five years, investing US$ 10 million in the demarcation of reserves, legal supervision of law suits, removal of non-Indians from the reservations, and registration with the Central. Demarcation services are supplied, as well as medical and dental treatment (both preventive and curative), education, and farming and forest extraction activities. When requested, the company also helps to regularize other indigenous areas.
Sustained Development – At Carajás, CVRD implements the
projects, techniques and methods which constitute a Sustained Development
Strategy breaking new ground in Brazil, seeking to harmonize economic activities
with the well-being of man and protection of the environment. Since the
start-up of the Carajás Iron Ore Project, CVRD has devoted special,
unceasing care to the ecosystems of the region. Some US$ 60 million have
been channeled to research and surveying programs designed to foster the
recuperation and conservation of the environment, as well as actions supporting
social and economic development. Only 1.6% of the 411,000 hectares of this
Project are assigned to mining activities and townships. The forest remains
untouched and protected throughout the remaining area. Close to Carajás,
three other conservation units covering 317,000 hectares are under the
direct protection of CVRD through an agreement with the Brazilian Institute
for Environment and Renewable Resources – IBAMA.