Aracruz

Posted: 15 May 2007 in Andritz

Pulpmillwatch

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(May 2007): Aracruz is the world’s largest producer of bleached eucalyptus pulp, producing a total of 27 per cent of the world’s bleached eucalyptus pulp. The company produces a total of 3 million tonnes of pulp a year, and has an area of almost 280,000 hectares of industrial tree plantations plus about 90,000 hectares grown under contract with farmers. Aracruz has expanded its operations by 1.3 million tonnes since 2000 and the company recently submitted an EIA to the authorities in Rio Grande do Sul State in Southern Brazil for new million tonnes a year pulp mill.

Aracruz’s main shareholders are the Safra Group (Brazil – 28 per cent), the Lorentzen Group (Norway – 28 per cent), the Votorantim Group (Brazil 28 per cent) and the Brazilian National Economic and Social Development Bank (12.5 per cent). [1]

The company has a controversial record. Aracruz Florestal started operations in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo in 1967, during the military dictatorship which ruled Brazil from 1964 until 1985. Aracruz took over land from the Tupinikim and Guarani Indigenous Peoples, as well as state lands and land covered by Atlantic forest. During the 1970s the company expanded its plantations northward into the territories of rural communities formed by runaway slaves known as Quilombos. Aracruz also took land from small farmers. [2]

The company’s first 400,000 tons a year mill opened in 1978 in Espírito Santo state. [3] Since then the company has continually expanded. Aracruz built a second mill in 1991 and a third in 2002. Built at a cost of US$575 million, the third mill provided only 173 jobs. [4]

Although Aracruz claims that it is providing “job opportunities even in remote areas of the country”, the reality is that the number of jobs has decreased with mechanisation and automation. More and more workers have been laid off and many jobs have been outsourced to subcontractors. Salaries for outsourced workers who manage to keep their jobs are far less than they had when they worked for the company. [5]

Many of the jobs, particularly those involving machinery or chemicals, are dangerous. Rather than providing medical services and compensation, however, Aracruz has sacked workers that were injured while working for the company. [6]

In recent years, Aracruz has expanded its operations outside Espírito Santo province. In 2000, Aracruz joined a joint venture with Stora Enso to establish plantations and build a pulp mill in the state of Bahia. The Veracel pulp mill, the world’s largest single line pulp mill at 900,000 tonnes a year started operations in June 2005. Veracel cleared forest to make way for its plantations and more than 800 people had to leave their homes. [7] Farmers living near Veracel’s plantations told researchers from SwedWatch, a Swedish NGO, that the water level in creeks, ponds and lakes was significantly lower than before Veracel started planting. In some cases, watercourses had completely disappeared. Fishing and irrigation of agricultural farmland became impossible. [8]

In 2003, Aracruz paid US$610 million to buy Riocell from Klabin. Riocell is a 400,000 tonnes a year pulp mill with 40,000 hectares of eucalyptus plantations in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. [9]

Aracruz is currently carrying out research into genetically engineered trees. In 2004, the company claimed that the research was confined to the laboratory. Gabriel Dehon Rezende, Forest Improvement Manager, wrote: “Aracruz does not use Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in its field trials or commercial plantations.” [10] Today, the company has a GMO policy which states that “Aracruz Celulose believes that Genetic Engineering of forest species can bring benefits to society through sustainable development.” The policy states that Aracruz “bases its decisions regarding research, development, planting and acquisition of Genetically Modified Trees upon current legislation, scientific knowledge, the requirements of its customers and the concerns of society”. [11]

To make way for its plantations, Aracruz destroyed more than 50,000 hectares of Atlantic forest. [12] Pairs of tractors with a chain tied between them drove through the forest, destroying everything in their path. Animals were crushed by falling trees or machinery. [13] Aracruz has also been fined by IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental protection agency, for planting in protected areas. [14]

Rivers and streams have dried up as a result of Aracruz’s eucalyptus plantations. The company has dammed rivers and diverted water from the Doce River to its mills, further impacting water flows in the region. Fishing has largely disappeared from many of the rivers in the region. [15]

Water that remains is polluted by herbicides and pesticides sprayed on the plantations. The Brazilian NGO FASE reports cases of blindness caused by contaminated water in some communities. [16]

Brazilian journalist Rogério Medeiros has monitored Aracruz’s operations since the beginning. He states that more than 156 streams have disappeared in the region and wells are dryign up in several areas. The San Domingos River has stopped flowing. “Fifty thousand people in the area used to eat fish every day. Now they eat fish no more; some fishermen have stopped fishing because there are so few fish to catch”, said Joao Pedro Stedile of the Landless Peasants Movement (MST) in 1992. [17]

Aracruz built its first pulp mill on the site of a Tupinikim village called the Village of the Monkeys. Aracruz forced approximately 7,000 families to move from the land it occupied. Several thousand of these families did not receive any compensation. [18] “When the company came, the people left. They weren’t able to defy it. They were forced to leave and even threatened. . . . The company took everything,” Eugenio Francisco, a Tupinikim of the village of Lancha told researchers from FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency in 1994. [19]

Since 1979, indigenous Tupinikim and Guarani people have attempted to recover their lands from Aracruz. [*] In 1997, FUNAI recognised 18,071 hectares as belonging to the Tupinikim and Guarani people. [20] However, they were only able to reclaim about 7,000 hectares of this land, because of pressure from Aracruz on the federal government.

In May 2005, Tupinikim and Guarani cut thousands of eucalyptus trees to define the boundaries of about 11,000 hectares of their land. They built a large meeting house and several other houses on the land. [21] Several indigenous families moved into the houses and started farming the land.

In January 2006, Aracruz was involved in a violent eviction of the villages. With the support of the government Tactical Operations Commando and the Federal Police, Aracruz tractors destroyed the villages. Police shot rubber bullets at the Indigenous People from helicopters. Several people were injured. Some were arrested, but instead of being taken to the police station, they were held at the Aracruz “Guest House”. [22]

Aracruz denies that its plantations occupy indigenous land and states that it has “NEVER removed or driven out Indians from their lands, having ALWAYS acquired its lands by legal means”. [23]

Despite the violence, and despite a racist anti-indigenous peoples campaign launched by Aracruz, the Tupinikim and Guarani continue to struggle to regain their land. Recently they started rebuilding the Olho d’Água village which was destroyed in January 2006. In addition, quilombo communities (descendets of escaped slaves) are protesting against Aracruz’s plantations. In July 2007, they formed a protest camp against Aracruz. Other protests have taken place in Rio Grande Do Sul, for example in 2006, about 2,000 members of Via Campesian marked International Women’s Day with a protest inside Aracruz’s tree nursery. The protesters refer to Aracruz’s plantations as a “Green Desert”.

“If the green desert continues to grow, shortly we will be lacking drinking water and land to produce food. We cannot understand how a government that wants to end hunger is sponsoring the green desert instead of investing in the Agrarian Reform and Peasant Agriculture,” Via Campesina wrote in a declaration accompanying the protest.

This profile is an up-dated version of a profile first published in Alternativer Waldschadenbericht, by Urgewald, ARA, Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung, January 2006 (in German).


* UPDATE (28 August 2007): In August 2007, the Tupinikim and Guarani won the struggle for their land, when Brazil’s Minister of Justice, Tarso Genro, signed two ministerial decrees acknowleding 18,070 hectares of land in Espirito Santo as belonging to the Tupinikim and Guarani Indigenous Peoples.


Footnotes

[1] Aracuz Profile. Aracruz website.

[2] FASE “Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights Violations in Eucalyptus Monoculture: Aracruz Celulose and the State of Espírito Santo”, Vitória, Espírito Santo, 13 August 2002.

[3] Ricardo Carrere and Larry Lohmann “Pulping the South: Industrial Tree Plantations and the World Paper Economy”, Zed Book and World Rainforest Movement, 1996, page 149.

[4] De’Nadai, Alacir, Winifridus Overbeek and Luiz Alberto Soares “Promises of Jobs and Destruction of Work: The case of Aracruz in Brazil”, World Rainforest Movement, May 2005, page 17.

[5] De’Nadai, Alacir, Winifridus Overbeek and Luiz Alberto Soares “Promises of Jobs and Destruction of Work: The case of Aracruz in Brazil”, World Rainforest Movement, May 2005, page 23.

[6] De’Nadai, Alacir, Winifridus Overbeek and Luiz Alberto Soares “Promises of Jobs and Destruction of Work: The case of Aracruz in Brazil”, World Rainforest Movement, May 2005, page 26.

[7] De’Nadai, Alacir, Winifridus Overbeek, Luiz Alberto Soares (2005) “Promises of jobs and destruction of work: The case of Aracruz Cellulose in Brazil”, World Rainforest Movement, Uruguay, page 37.

[8] Måns Andersson and Örjan Bartholdson “Swedish Pulp in Brazil: The case of Veracel”, Swedwatch, 2004, page 22.

[9] “Aracruz signs contract to acquire Riocell”, Aracruz press release, 30 May 2003.

[10] E-mail to Chris Lang from Gabriel Dehon Rezende, Forest Improvement Manager at Aracruz, 23 July 2004.

[11] Policy for genetically modified organisms, Aracruz website.

[12] Ricardo Carrere and Larry Lohmann “Pulping the South: Industrial Tree Plantations and the World Paper Economy”, Zed Book and World Rainforest Movement, 1996, page 153.

[13] FASE “Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights Violations in Eucalyptus Monoculture: Aracruz Celulose and the State of Espírito Santo”, Vitória, Espírito Santo, 13 August 2002, page 29.

[14] Ricardo Carrere and Larry Lohmann “Pulping the South: Industrial Tree Plantations and the World Paper Economy”, Zed Book and World Rainforest Movement, 1996, page 153.

[15] FASE “Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights Violations in Eucalyptus Monoculture: Aracruz Celulose and the State of Espírito Santo”, Vitória, Espírito Santo, 13 August 2002, page 38.

[16] FASE “Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights Violations in Eucalyptus Monoculture: Aracruz Celulose and the State of Espírito Santo”, Vitória, Espírito Santo, 13 August 2002, page 39.

[17] Ricardo Carrere and Larry Lohmann “Pulping the South: Industrial Tree Plantations and the World Paper Economy”, Zed Book and World Rainforest Movement, 1996, page 153.

[18] Ricardo Carrere and Larry Lohmann “Pulping the South: Industrial Tree Plantations and the World Paper Economy”, Zed Book and World Rainforest Movement, 1996, page 149.

[19] “Working Group 0783/94 of the National Foundation for the Indian (FUNAI)”, cited in Joao Roberto Costa da Souza and Paulo Machado Guimaraes “International Campaign for the Extension and Demarcation of the Indigenous Lands of the Tupinikim and Guarani”, Executive Commission of the Tupinikim and Guarani and Conselho Indigenista Missionário – CIMI East, August 1996.

[20] “Our land, our freedom”, open letter from the Tupinikim and Guarani Chiefs Committee, Tupinikim village of Irajá, February 28, 2005.

[21] “Struggle for the demarcation of the Tupinikim and Guarani lands continues: reconstruction of the village of Araribá”, Alert against the Green Desert Network, 23 June 2005.

[22] “Brazil: The Federal Police invade Tupiniquim and Guarani villages on land recovered from Aracruz Celulose plantations”, World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, January 2006.

[23] Indian issue in Espírito Santo, Aracruz website.


Further reading

World Rainforest Movement
FASE ES
Robin Wood
Indymedia

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