Carajás Corridor in Brazil: Could an SEA Have Reconciled Shared-Use Infrastructure and Environmental Protection?

Toledano, Perrine; Brauch, Martin Dietrich

The 998km Carajás railway corridor connects the world’s largest iron ore mine, operated by private mining company Vale S.A. (Vale) in Brazil’s northern state of Pará (PA), to the company’s maritime terminal in São Luís, the capital of the northeastern state of Maranhão (MA). Carajás is one of the few integrated railway corridors financed by a mining company that, apart from transporting the iron ore that made the infrastructure investments viable, also transports general cargo and operates passenger services along the corridor. This corridor was born from the Brazilian government’s plans in the mid1950s that foresaw the iron ore reserves of Carajás to be among the anchor investments to develop agriculture and industrial production in the Amazon region and help attract migrants from other parts of the country. As such, third-party access (i.e. shared use174) to infrastructure investments was a fundamental part of the regional development plans. When these plans were created, environmental and social considerations of those living within and beyond the corridor’s region played a secondary role, which helps explain the conflicts that can still be observed along the corridor and the impacts in other parts of the country (Brauch et al., 2020) (see Section 20.1.)

The Carajás corridor has facilitated enormous economic development for this otherwise very poor region of Brazil, but at a high environmental risk for an environmentally sensitive area. Neither Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) nor Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) were undertaken. The industries that were attracted are the most prone to engaging in deforestation: large-scale farming and pig iron factories fuelling themselves with charcoal. In addition, apart from municipalities hosting mining activities or port operations at the end points of the corridor and certain urban centres along the corridor, the development indicators of smaller and poorer municipalities along the corridor have not improved more than outside the corridor. Among communities in those smaller and poorer municipalities, there is widespread perception of the negative environmental impacts of the railway corridor, including air, noise, soil and water pollution. Perceived environmental problems resulting from the corridor were again evidenced throughout the recent expansion and duplication of the tracks of the Carajás railroad (Brauch et al., 2020) (see Section 20.2.) This state of affairs begs the following questions. Was the environmental cost worth it? Could a rigorous SEA framework have led to better environmental outcomes? We answer these questions in Sections 20.3 and present our conclusions in Section 20.4.


  • thumnail for ccsi-impact-assessment-development-corridors.pdf ccsi-impact-assessment-development-corridors.pdf application/pdf 1.14 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Published Here
August 29, 2023