CVRD Opens its Doors to Local Communities in Brazil

Luana Andreza Ferreira took part in the CVRD Community Visits Program in Minas GeraisThe following article was first published in Engagement, Vale’s magazine for socially responsible and sustainable mining.

Guided tours help bring together CVRD and local town residents

Ever since she can remember, Luana has looked out over the same intriguing landscape from her window. Every day the 19-year-old from Minas Gerais asked herself how it would feel to be there, inside the mine she sees day after day on the far horizon. Then, last November, she was finally able to satisfy her curiosity by taking part in the CVRD Community Visits Program.

The program started in 2003 with the aim of bringing CVRD and local communities near its facilities closer together, and covers the states of Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Pará and Maranhão. Bernadete Almeida, Communities Communication coordinator at CVRD, explained, “Surveys showed that we were perceived as being ‘distant’ by some groups. There was also concern as to the environmental impact of our activities. We realized that people were interested in learning more about what we do and that many would like to see a mine with their own eyes. That’s why we created the Visits Program, to open the Company’s doors to receive anybody living in the cities and regions where CVRD is present.”

The story of Luana Andreza Ferreira is a case in point. She lives in Gabiroba de Cima, a neighborhood of Itabira (Minas Gerais) and has grown up surrounded by CVRD. Of her nine uncles, eight work in companies that provide services to CVRD, as does her brother. Nevertheless, she never really knew much about the company. “I thought they only mined the ore. Now I know that they also replant the landscapes, re-cultivating the natural ground cover and forest in the places where the Company operates,” she explained.
The visits to the mines are always a good opportunity to make the public aware of how important a role iron ore plays in modern life.

During her visit to the Fábrica Mine, artisan Imaculada Aparecida Cunha Franco, who lives in Congonhas (Minas Gerais), had the chance to see firsthand where the material she uses to decorate her plaster sculptures comes from. “It was like seeing the iron ore being born – the same powder I buy by the kilo at the Central Market in Belo Horizonte,” she said. Aparecida also worked on setting up a Nativity Scene, decorated with touches of metal, to help commemorate CVRD’s V-Day – an entire day in which Company employees and their families and friends dedicate their time to volunteer activities.

The visits to the facilities are advertised in the cities using posters, leaflets and billboards. It is all highly organized. The Mining Circuit – the name given to the program in Minas Gerais – involves an entire infrastructure set up to provide information, sign up those who want to take part, organize the invitations and then transport the visitors to the mines. In the Eastern Mines Complex, which includes the Fábrica Mine in Congonhas, the visits take place from April to November. Sixteen groups of up to fifty people visit the mine each year. In 2005, so many people signed up that it wasn’t possible to cater for even half of the requests from schools.

For the coordinator of the Renascer da Terceira Idade senior citizens group, Regina Célia Bartolomeu, the program has helped people discover the progress that has been made in the Congonhas region. She commented, “Most of us who have sons or sons-in-law working at the Fábrica Mine didn’t have the faintest idea of what really happens there.” The Group gathered 65 senior citizens from various neighborhoods in the city and made a visit in July, on the ninth anniversary of its own foundation.

The visits also help teach the population about how CVRD is committed to defending sustainable development, whether by giving preference to local materials suppliers and service providers, by qualifying the region’s workers or by generating jobs. An example of the latter is the Brutucu Complex, in São Gonçalo do Rio Abaixo (Minas Gerais), where new areas are being prepared for mining and which is expected to generate approximately 2,000 jobs.

Clayton Lúcio Coelho, a Geography teacher at the Lidimanha Augusta Maia Municipal School, believes it is no longer possible to ignore the effects of mining activities. “The areas being mined look as though they belong on another planet but, on the other hand, you can’t help but be impressed by the human capacity to change the environment, to create new technology and equipment, and to fight for survival.” Clayton visited the Córrego do Feijão Mine – one of CVRD’s newest iron ore mine in Brumadinho (MG) – last November, together with 42 students in order to supplement the lessons he had taught on sustainable development. As he pointed out, “It is very important that these students, who are fifth to eighth graders, learn about the main activity of the region they live in, at the edge of the so-called ‘Iron Quadrilateral’.”

In Vitória (Espírito Santo), invitations to visit the Tubarão Industrial Complex are made over the radio. The project is organized in partnership with the Gazeta Network, which is responsible for promoting the program and signing up those interested in taking part. The Network promotes the events on its AM radio station and through its Internet website (www.gazetaonline.com.br), as well as on two other radio stations – Litoral FM and CBN. A Gazeta reporter accompanies the visitors on the tour.

In touch with the community

In Espírito Santo, visitors also have the chance to tour the CVRD Maritime Terminals (Pier II and TPD) and to see how they integrate with the rail operations bringing the ore to the port – part of the company’s mine-rail-port chain of distribution. “The best part for me was seeing the equipment that lifts and turns over entire railcars filled with ore. We also got to see the ships being loaded with ore and pig-iron and the warehouses full of treated pellets,” said Mário Alcofra, a 23-year-old lawyer who took part in a tour on the 17th November. “We read and hear so much about CVRD, that I was really looking forward to seeing it up close.” Mario lives in Vila Velha (Espírito Santo), from where it is possible to see much of the CVRD Complex and the towers, as well as the trains and trucks moving back and forth, carrying the ore.

Paulo Henrique Soares, general manager of the CVRD Logistics Communication sector, is a keen supporter of the program. As he says, “The program is establishing itself as an excellent way to communicate directly with the communities near CVRD’s operations. Its new format, created in 2002, is in tune with the strategy to build an ongoing dialogue – part of the sustainable development model adopted by CVRD.”

This strategy helps the Company to minimize any possible negative impacts while highlighting the positive ones, by demonstrating the responsible management practices that are being implemented at all the facilities. The program also helps demonstrate the substantial social investments CVRD is making in the regions in which it operates, promoting economic growth, developing local suppliers and qualifying the local labor force.

Above all, the CVRD Community Visits Program makes it clear that the Company needs to do more than just show its internal processes and modern machinery. CVRD should work to be more than simply admired for being a worldclass mining company with a diverse range of activities. As Bernadete Almeida explains, “We want to win the people’s respect. For this to happen, we must release quality information. We need to open our doors to our guests and welcome them in for a coffee and a chat. That is the only way we can get to know each other better.”

Regina Bartolomey from the Renascer da Terceira Idade Group is full of praise for the initiative. She said, “For our group, visiting the mine and watching the presentation and being so well treated by the staff was a demonstration of consideration that we are not used to. Many of the visitors left at the end saying that the reception they received made them feel like we were all old friends.” Without further ceremony, Regina has become part of the family.

This article was originally published in Vale’s Social Responsibility Magazine: Engagement (January 2006)

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