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Yara sold rain forest project

Fertilizer giant Yara has sold the disputed phosphate project in protexted Atlantic rainforest in Brazil, which Norwatch visited last year.
Fertilizer giant Yara has sold the disputed phosphate project in protexted Atlantic rainforest in Brazil, which Norwatch visited last year.

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By Erik Hagen
Norwatch

Two weeks before Yara announced its purchase of the US fertilizer firm Terra Industries, Yara got rid of a painache in Brazil’s rainforest.

Norwatch visited Anitápolis municipality in south Brazil, the place where Yara has had plans to locate an open pit phosphate mine, and a large scale fertilizer production. The problem was that the area was located in Atlantic rainforest. Several endangered species use the forest.

Last year, a judge halted further construction permissions, of concern to the forest areas and the environment.

“There is well-founded apprehension that serious damage to the environment may occur if the environmental authorisation is upheld and logging and building are permitted,” the judge wrote.

Yara objected to the decision, and together with its partners, Yara has participated in the appeal process in Brazil. But the courts’ decisions still stand, after seven rounds in the legal system.

But now, Yara has divested from the dispute.

“We sold because this never was, and was never going to become, an integrated part of our business in Brazil. When the right offer came, we chose to sell”, Asle Skredderberget, Chief Communications Officer in Yara, told Norwatch.

Now, it is the firm Vale which has taken over the criticized project, which will contribute in making Brazil self-sufficient with fertilizers. The local environmental organisation Motanha Viva is not too pleased with the development on the ownership side of the project.

“Vale was a former state owned company, and has close ties to the authorities. By getting Vale into the phosphate project, it might get easier for Brazilian authorities to get the building going”, said Jorge Albuquerque, leader of Montanha Viva to Norwatch.

He believes that if Yara and Bunge had continued as owners alone, it would have been easier for the environmental organisation to win the ongoing legal process in the end.

At the same time as Yara sold the Anitápolis project, they also agreed to sell their 15,5 percent ownership of the Brazilian fertilizer firm Fosfertil to the same Vale.