Brazilian steel producers commit to Amazon protection, monitoring system

Press release - 2 August, 2012
São Luis, Brazil, August 2, 2012 – Pig iron producers in Maranhão state, Brazil, signed a landmark agreement today to eliminate Amazon deforestation from their supply chain and implement a monitoring system of charcoal used in their production processes.

Greenpeace Brazil said the agreement, signed by all seven pig iron producers of Maranhão state, brings the pig iron industry and Brazil a step closer towards ending deforestation in the Amazon, while also helping to curb the use of slave labour(1).

Huge quantities of charcoal are used in Brazil to produce pig iron, a key ingredient used to make cast iron and steel for cars, airplanes and appliances, which has lead to the illegal destruction of vast tracts of the Amazon rainforest. Currently, up to 90% of the region’s pig iron is exported to the US.

“This agreement by the industry is an important step forward for the protection of the Amazon and its people. Strict criteria for how the charcoal is sourced will help ensure a pig iron supply chain free of deforestation, slavery and fraud,” said Paulo Adario, Amazon Campaign Director, Greenpeace Brazil.

The agreement, signed at the Governor’s Palace of Maranhão, comes just weeks after the release of a Greenpeace International report linking the steel industry to wood charcoal, which is connected to the use of slave labor, deforestation and invasions into biological reserves and indigenous lands in the Amazon.

Following the release of Driving destruction in the Amazon(2) and a 10-day long protest in which activists clung to the anchor chain of a pig iron cargo ship in São Luis, the vice governor of Maranhão called industry and civil society members together to discuss the industry’s destructive practices.

"This commitment from the pig iron industry offers hope of ending deforestation. Now, it is necessary to implement consistent monitoring by Maranhão State and the Federal government. There can be no more impunity," said Father Dario, Coordinator of Justice on the Rails, the network that represents the social movements in the Carajas region of the Amazon.

Driving Destruction in the Amazon shows how pig iron is exported from Brazil and purchased by the Severstal steel mill in Columbus, Mississippi. This plant claims it directly supplies automakers Ford, GM and Mercedes.

The links between pig iron production and slavery in Brazil were first exposed more than six years ago, but the response from major car companies has been too weak to force any change in the supply chain.

More than 400,000 Brazilians have already signed a petition calling for a Zero Deforestation law, which would offer full protection for the Brazilian Amazon. With the president’s support this could become law.

Following today's pig iron agreement, Greenpeace Brazil is continuing its call for President Dilma Rousseff to support the call for Zero Deforestation and ensure the Amazon is finally and fully protected from further destruction.


For more information, pictures or interviews please contact:

Jessica Miller, Greenpeace Communications in Brazil: +55 92 81144517

Greenpeace International Press hotline: +31 207 182 470

Notes to the Editor:

(1) Brazil's penal code defines in Article 149 “slave labour” as exhausting work forced through violence or the threat of it, under degrading working and living conditions 

(2) Greenpeace International report - Driving Destruction in the Amazon