By Laura Madden, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Construction on Superporto do Açu has been underway since 2007 and is reported to be a US$1.6 billion project, originally planned to come online in 2012. The massive port and industrial complex being built by LLX – the logistics subsidiary of Eicke Batista’s EBX which is building the port 250 miles north of Rio – is also drawling controversy on how it is affecting the community in São João da Barra.
In late December, Rio de Janeiro’s state court granted an injunction against the company that sold the land to LLX in order to protect elderly residents affected by land expropriations. A federal inquiry found that the expropriations were being carried out aggressively and resembled acts of militia.
The Rio de Janeiro state Council on Human Rights has been investigating claims of coercion and disrespect for the residents of São João da Barra who are having their land expropriated by the Industrial Development Company of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Codin).
“There are flaws in the process and progress has to bring benefits to everyone,” Andrea Sepulveda, chairman of the Council, told O Globo.
LLX bought the land from Codin, who did a study when the allegations first arose. The study found that in the first phase, when the expropriation of 151 properties took place, there were only sixteen families effectively living in the area. All of them were compensated with a value of R$100,000 per acre and given new homes in Vila da Terra, a resettlement organized by Codin.
Julio Bueno, the state Secretary of Economic Development, Energy and Industry, dismissed the action against Codin and the claims of coercion as politically motivated due to scheduled municipal elections this year. Furthermore, he pointed out that the majority of the landowners don’t even have official documents proving the land belongs to them. Even so, many refuse to negotiate.
Construction of the superport will allow for loading and unloading of goods such as coal, oil, granite, steel, iron ore and pig iron will take place on the ten-berth port strategically located between Macaé (Rio de Janeiro state) and Vitória (Espirito Santo state) within a 93-mile radius of the Campos Basin.
David Lorimer, director of Datamar, a Rio-based shipping and logistics firm explains: “The scale of the Açu project is such that its coming on stream is likely to be a very long and drawn out process, with port operations expanding as and when the component parts of the industrial complex come on line.”
“2013 is LLX’s [current] target for beginning operations; I think most of what we’ll see then, and perhaps even earlier, will be imports of project cargoes for construction of those component parts: the iron ore pipeline from Minas Gerais, the rail connection, cement plant, steel mill, shipyard, tank farm and so forth.”
While many consider the Superporto do Açu project a windfall for the town of São João da Barra, population 30,000, these recent allegations are causing concern. However the project is estimated to generate over 50,000 jobs, increase the gross domestic income (PIB – Produto Interno Bruto) of the area by 500 percent and inflate the population to 250,000 by 2025.