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Contention, participation, and mobilization in environmental assessment follow-up: the Itabira experience

Author(s): John Devlin | Denise Isabel Tubino

Journal: Sustainability : Science, Practice and Policy
ISSN 1548-7733

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 106;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: environmental management | follow-up studies | political change | public awareness | mining | interest groups

This article analyzes the public participation and follow-up stages of the environmental assessment process to secure an operating license for an iron-ore mine in Itabira, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Vale, a major Brazilian mining company, eventually received authorization to begin operations in 2000, but only after making significant concessions to public demands on a variety of environmental and social conditions. In the years following the approval, Vale met several conditions regarding environmental cleanup, parks and infrastructure, water protection, and commitment to the local community. However, over time some of these activities were interrupted or aborted, while a number of conditions were never met. This article suggests that these weaknesses in follow-up were a consequence of the demobilization and retreat of the state and a parallel demobilization of civil society after 2000. The case demonstrates that state and public attentiveness can be episodic and suggests that high-profile agreements do not assure sustainable outcomes. Institutionalized participatory monitoring and management units appear necessary for continued environmental management that pursues long-term sustainability.
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