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Private railway: the open veins of Brazil

In Brazil, a multimillion-dollar project to build a private freight railroad and port to export raw materials to Europe and China threatens the Amazon rainforest, the cerrado and its inhabitants. The German railway company Deutsche Bahn is already involved, the German development bank KfW and the development company GIZ are studying possible aid for the project.

Brazil is already one of the world’s largest exporters of agricultural raw materials, such as soy, wood and derivatives. Pulp and paper, mining products like iron ore to make steel and bauxite to make aluminum. Germany, the EU and China obtain a considerable part of their demand from the South American country.

On the table is a large infrastructure project by the Grão-Pará Maranhão group of companies (GPM). The intention is to build a 520-kilometre freight rail line, from the interior to the coast, to a port terminal expected to further increase exports of raw materials. Both are located in the midst of national and international nature reserves and on land belonging to traditional quilombola communities, descendants of Africans and enslaved Africans.

private railway, mining, monocultures, diesel, wood, environmental impact, deforestation, displacement of populations
Cartographic section of the northeast of the Brazilian legal Amazon (Legal Amazon 2021) with the location of the TPA port and the EF-317 railway line (Source: IBGE, GPM). (© Nicole)

Railway and port for the export of raw materials and energy

The project would largely destroy not only the untouched tropical island of Cajual, where the port will be built, and the areas that extend along the route of the railway line, but above all huge extensions of jungle and Amazonian cerrado. the Cerrado, rich in species. These would be affected by the conversion to agro-industrial monocultures, wood plantations and the expansion of open-pit mines to extract mineral resources, including the population that lives there.

Deutsche Bahn AG (DB), wholly owned by the German federal government, has already agreed to participate in the project with the consortium of operators. “The DB ECO Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Grão-Pará Maranhão (GPM) for the joint development of the project and subsequent operation of the railroadDB reports.

The German state credit institution Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and the also state-owned Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), which is the German agency for development cooperation, “They are already studying how to support the project“.


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