22:00, Wednesday, 22 May 2013
This morning, after a short visit to the botanical garden and zoo established by mining company Vale in a conservation project, as part of their commitment to sustainable development, we were taken to the iron ore mining site. Despite the limited time available, we visited the core mining location, from which rich, friable hematite, containing 65% iron, is extracted.
The site is really large, and carefully designed to ensure accumulated rainwater does not affect the mining process.
In the afternoon, we left Carajas and moved to São Luis, the location of the loading port. There, I was briefed on the details of the process to control moisture levels in the iron ore, which must be within strict limits. This procedure is essential for the safety of ships involved in the bulk carriage of iron ore.
I viewed the train terminal where the iron ore is unloaded from trains, via an underground transfer channel, to the stock-piling site, where it is left for some days to settle and drain before being conveyed to the loading arms at the ship terminals. Due to heavy rainfall, terminal operation was stopped and I was not able to observe first-hand the process of loading the iron ore onto one of the Valemax ships. But the technical staff of the company were confident about continuing their solid record of safe carriage of the product over almost three decades since export of iron ore began from Carajas, in 1985.
Tomorrow, according to the plan, I will be visiting an off-shore oil platform.
21:30, Tuesday, 21 May 2013
I am in Brazil on an official State visit this week. After a visit to the 1st Naval District Headquarters Office, where I received a warm welcome from the Commandant of the Navy, Admiral Moura Neto, and, visits to Rio de Janeiro’s Port Authority and Seafarers Instruction Centre, I transferred to Carajas by aircraft, having accepted an invitation from Vale to visit the world biggest iron ore mining site. The trip was arranged by the Brazilian Navy.
Carajas is an amazing place, situated at 700m above sea level and right in the middle of the Amazon jungle. The airport runway is surrounded by tall rainforest trees. The plane flew over the world’s biggest mining site and landed in a thin strip cut into the rainforest.
The purpose of my visit to the mining site is to directly observe the way Vale operates its mining activities, to better understand whole the process of mining, the specific features of this mining site and how iron ore is treated and transported for shipping. Liquefaction of fine minerals during navigation is a matter of great concern in the maritime community and an IMO Sub-Committee is currently considering strengthening safety measures to protect bulk carriers from the risk of capsizing due to liquefaction. Before establishing any international safety measures, it is important to fully understand the process of mining, land transport, preparation for shipping and control measures already implemented by the industry.
I am being accompanied on my visit by Brazil’s Permanent Representative to IMO, Admiral Umberto de Mendonça, and with the support of the mining company Vale.