Brazilian Indians block iron ore miner Vale's Carajas railway

SAO PAULO, July 10 Wed Jul 10, 2013 3:08pm EDT

SAO PAULO, July 10 (Reuters) - Brazilian Indians seeking better public services blocked a key railway carrying iron ore from global miner Vale's giant Carajas mine to port, the company said on Wednesday.

Vale did not say how much iron ore had been held up by the protests, which were not directed at the company. The railway, known as EFC, carries close to 100 million tonnes of iron ore a year, or nearly 10 percent of the world's 1 billion tonnes of seaborne exports.

The line connects the Carajas mining complex in Brazil's Amazonian state of Pará with the Port of Ponta da Madeira near São Luis, the Atlantic port capital of Maranhão state on Brazil's Northeast coast.

The railway moves a third of Vale's iron ore output of about 300 million tonnes a year and is being expanded along with Carajas to make up for declining output in Brazil's central highlands.

COAPIMA, an organization representing indigenous groups in Maranhão, said various tribes were demonstrating to demand better services, including health care, on their reservations.

Vale said a local court ruled the protesters should be evicted from the railway but the order had not yet been carried out. The miner, the world's second-largest, last week received permission from Brazil's Environmental Protection Agency to build a $19.5 billion expansion to Carajas.

Brazil, which has set about 13 percent of its territory for Indians, is struggling to defuse a series of conflicts with natives over farmland, proposed hydroelectric dams, and mines.

President Dilma Rousseff, who will likely run for re-election next year, has tried to prevent more violence since two Terena Indians were killed when police evicted members of the tribe from a former congressman's cattle ranch last month.

Indians were generally not involved in massive protests that rocked cities across Brazil in late June and focused on a range of urban grievances from government corruption to inadequate public transportation and hospitals.

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