Eucalyptus in Brazil: Building ElDorado in the Amazon


EUCALYPTOLOGICS brings you today a video depicting an impressive feat of naval, chemical, mining, agricultural, civil and forestry engineering in the mouth of the Amazon River. The birth of Monte Dourado (El Monte Dorado, The Golden Forest) of Pará and Amapá, and the development of Eucalyptus cultivation in Northern Brazil.

Jari Celulose Eucalyptus Cellulose Pulp Mill, Pará, Brazil / Travelling Pulp Mill Video / Projeto Jari / Jari Project / World Class Eucalyptus Forestry and Pulp Industry / GIT Forestry Consulting, Consultoria y Servicios de Ingenieria Agroforestal, Lugo, Galicia, España, Spain / EucalyptologicsProjeto Jari: Shipping a Built Pulp Mill From Japan to the Amazon

An American in the Amazon

By 1930... a young North American entrepreneur from Michigan (USA) with practical expertise in shipping industry received the first commissions to build a new type of transport vessel. Soon a prosperous fortune was fueled as oil tankers first and supertankers later became a vital piece for successful worldwide trade.

In 1967... the Invisible Billionaire, Daniel K. Ludwig envisioned some of the catastrophic environmental effects of uncontrolled global population growth, and decided to do his part to reduce the rate of defforestation of natural woodlands tied to an increasing demand of pulp and paper products. An thus, Projeto Jari was born.

From 1967 to 1981... more than 750 million dollar investments by Ludwig included the purchase of 1,200,000 hectares of very sparsely inhabited land at both shores of the Jari River; starting 100,000 hectares of Gmelina arborea timber crops to sustain a renewable source of raw fibre; building the port of Munguba for prospective exports plus a connected network of roads and railroads; founding the city of Monte Dourado and providing it with hospitals, schools, nurseries and housing; and launching agricultural schemes for rice cultivation and cattle production.

Projeto Jari: The Floating Pulp Mill Video

Arrival of the pulp mill to Jari after 25,000 km of trasoceanic towing. Video courtesy Edda Narciso

In 1978... the shipping magnate received a fully built ship-shaped pulp mill factory previously commissioned at Japanese Kure dockyards and towed it in 85 days accross the Pacific, Indic and part of the Atlantic to the mouth of the Amazon River, and up the river to the Jari. Just as we are due its 30th anniversary, you can watch the arrival and installation of the travelling factory in the video above. A combined feat of naval, chemical and civil engineering. Not to mention a costly venture even at such latitudes.

Unfortunately, establishing tree farms in the tropics is not an easy task. Neither for trees nor for people. Timber yields of Gmelina were poorer than anticipated in these conditions of soil and climate, operating costs were high, volume of investment astronomic, and short term returns modest. However all the needed pieces were set up for future profit, except the suitable trees. And then...

Eucalyptus based pulp & paper industry keeps Jari afloat

In 1981 Ludwig transferred his interests in the Projeto Jari to Brazilian investors and bounced back to his already well diversified entrepeunerial emporium. Soon afterwards, 75 years after Navarro de Andrade started industrial planting with the Australian trees in Southern Brazil, Eucalyptus started replacing Gmelina as major timber crop at Jari, and became a good example of the adaptability and good growth of these wonder trees to the extreme environmental conditions of the tropics when suitable forest management is implemented.

Jari Celulose Eucalyptus Cellulose Pulp Mill, Monte Dourado, Pará, Brazil / World Class Eucalyptus Forestry and Pulp Industry / GIT Forestry Consulting, Consultoria y Servicios de Ingenieria Agroforestal, Lugo, Galicia, España, Spain / EucalyptologicsJari Celulose - World Class Eucalyptus Cellulosic Pulp Industry

Today... Monte Dourado is inhabited by 20,000 Brazilian citizens, the port of Munguba exports over 300,000 tonnes of Eucalyptus cellulosic kraft pulp per year, Jari's pulp mill uses state-of-the-art low environmental impacting ECF technologies for bleaching, and its renewable raw fibre supply (70% Eucalyptus, 20% Gmelina, 10% Pinus) has been certified by FSC for its sustainable forest management.

In addition to the Eucalyptus based industry, one of the finest sources of kaolin clays in Brazil exploited under sensible practices (including habitat restoration) comes also from the Jari and provides raw materials for a multitude of final uses.

Industrial procesing of CADAM (Caulim da Amazonia SA) Jari Kaolinite. Video courtesy Edda Narciso

Among these final products, coated paper. So one of the finest short fibre cellulosic pulps and one of the finest coating materials are both exported from the Jari to become some of the highest quality printing papers in the world.

Not bad as a result for the crazy dream of an American in the Amazon!

Daniel K. Ludwig died in 1992 at age 95. His legacy includes a share of profits in the Jari until 2026.

Simple Math for People Worried About "Evil" Eucalyptus Propaganda

JARI CELULOSE= +1,000,000 hectares = 350,000 tons of pulp per year
  • Eucalyptus plantations = 52,000 hectares (-3% of their landbase)
  • Environmental recovery & preservation = +1,000,000 hectares (+90% of their landsbase)

States of Pará & Amapá = 139,050,409 hectares
Jari Eucalyptus plantations = 0.037% of Pará & Amapá; 0.06% of Brazil

Brazil = 851,487,700 hectares
  • Soybean= 22,949,000 ha ( 2.69% of Brazil)
  • Corn = 11,559,000 ha ( 1.36% of Brazil)
  • Sugar Cane = 6,172,000 ha (0.72% of Brazil)
  • Rice = 3,916,000 ha (0.46% of Brazil)
  • Wheat = 2,361,000 ha (0.28% of Brazil)
Combined major agricultural crops = 46,957,000 ha (5.5% of Brazil)

Eucalyptus plantations = circa 4,000,000 hectares
(0.5% of Brazil, LESS THAN 1%!)

Do You Still Believe "the evil " Eucalyptus monocultures are taking over the world??

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© 2008 Gustavo Iglesias Trabado. Please contact us if you want to use all or part of this text and photography elsewhere. We like to share, but we do not like rudeness.

6 Comments by our readers :::

Nigel said...

Re: Eucalyptus in Brazil: American Billionaire Builds `El destructorado`

Posted by Nigel on 3/13/2008, 4:29 pm

If you saw the devastation these pulp companies are causing its mind boggling.
They are levelling vast areas of pristine forest for pulp plantations.
They call this green.
Vast swathes of south america are destyroyed for ever by unending forests of timber for pulp.
The Pinus is self seeding all over south brazil uruguay and argentina and destroying the native forests.
I have been there, and seen it. There is nothing nice about what these timber companies are doing, it is wholesale destruction of vast areas of native flora and fauna.

Gus-Eucalyptologics said...

Re: Eucalyptus in Brazil: American Billionaire Builds something

Posted by Gus on 3/13/2008, 9:15 pm

The fact you have been driving around there (even if some displeasing things were observed, as you well mention), so you have recent direct insight, is valuable. In your opinion, would the situation you observed justify changing the status for T. brasiliensis from DD to LR?

Some cynicists would say ignorance is a blessing, but I won't. Land use conversions (no matter the type) involving transforming any previous ecosystem do necessarily involve habitat loss. Now the issue is if this loss is critical or not, how much critical it is (if it is), and what is it critical for. And even more importantly, who defines what is critical, how, and why :) And then balancing all that with the other side of the problem.

Situations like this, if properly addressed (e.g. leaving the zealots aside, on any side), can (with some luck) end up with arrangements that try to keep the balance. Sadly, it is not the same trying this in some areas of the world or others, it can be overwhelming sometimes. I see trends towards this (balance) becoming more and more common with time, at least in some areas. But balance means concessions from both points of view. Total preservation of the totality of habitats of the totality of (unspoilt) ecosystems is an utopy, and we all must realize that. We live in a hungry world (literally, and also in a broader sense of demand of goods and services).

All that said, I understand your view. And I respect it too.

Just a final idea. Let's not give ourselves the role of destructors. We can be. But in many cases, resilience of the system is too powerful for us to reach that status. Fortunately :)

Nigel said...

Re: Eucalyptus in Brazil: American Billionaire Builds something

Posted by Nigel on 3/13/2008, 5:59 pm

I drove more than 3000km across that area and the plantations are everywhere.
In Santa caterina the Pinus has gone wild and is seedling everywhere.
In the mountains of Santa Caterina and Parana the incredibly rich native forests are being levelled by bulldozers to be replaced by endless stands of eucalypts and pinus where nothing else grows.
I drove for a day searching for rare Trithrinax brasiliensis populations, and every habitat had been converted to Pinus plantations.
In Argentina and Paraguay its the same. Almost the entire state of Misiones is a giant plantation.
It makes me throw up to see the native vegetation destroyed on such massive scales to be replaced by these plantations.
The environmental destruction is really quite mind boggling.

Gus-eucalyptologics said...

Re: Eucalyptus in Brazil: American Billionaire Builds something

Posted by Gus on 3/13/2008, 5:28 pm

Thanks Nigel. I try to see it as conversion of a low % of total native habitat acreage into an intensive crop area that tries to achieve sustained production. One of the interesting trends is an important acreage of (relatively) unspoilt habitat reserves within these (relatively) huge landholdings, and the combinations of crop + reserves + wildife corridors.

We cannot close eyes to a 20 fold increase in paper demand in just some decades. Raw fibre consumption will keep increasing no matter what, because population keeps increasing and many millions are starting to get our consumer habits (they start to be able to afford them). So I think the point is where to source it from. Not just today. Tomorrow too.

These companies have been (pushed to) evolving into less impacting ways compared to just some 30 years ago. That is a nice thing.

What is mindbogging is that when we see one of those "neverending" pulpwood forests (I have seen them too), we still lack sense of scale. All those trees are just a grain of sand. For instance, it is less of 1% of Brazil acreage for the case of eucalypts. And the numbers are not so dissimilar elsewhere. Vastness is a vast concept. And green is a relative colour.

Now I am sure there are things that can be improved and fixed, as in any other practice And that is a much more worthwile path than others.

Nigel said...

Re: Eucalyptus in Brazil: American Billionaire Builds something

Posted by Nigel on 3/14/2008, 5:08 am

Gus, I dont know enough to say if it should be DD or LR but it does seem threatened. Many of the listed habitats are gone.

I know these plantations are neccessary to meet demand, but they are so vast everything is wiped off the map.

At least with intensive farming where people are living the natural vegetation survives in strips and pockets, but on these plantations it seems devastation is complete. There is nothing left of what was there before.

The point at which it goes from dismay to anger is when I am reading that it is somehow a "green" industry, because no other industry wipes the landscape quite so completely.

I know that these plantations are neccessary, but it would be nice if the timber companies would preserve areas of virgin forest and stop the "spin" to portray it as something it isn't.

Gus-Eucalyptologics said...

Re: Eucalyptus in Brazil: American Billionaire Builds something

Posted by Gus on 3/14/2008 5:47 am

It is a bit far away from me for me to know what the status is for such a beautiful palm. To get to know things like this is what some environmentalists should be campaigning without noise, instead of wasting so much funding and effort from their comfortable offices in the North just to appear in the news as saviours of Gaia or promoting grassroot environmentalist crime. Fortunately there are naturalists, biologists and ecologists in the world too. And I have faith some of them can apply science to give neutral answers.

The comment you make about intensive farming and preserving corridors and pockets of natural vegetation prompts me to suggest you to watch this video depicting exactly the same land use idea you suggest applied at a landscape level: Eucalyptus timber crops in the Mata Atlantica of Paraná established in a "frame" of interconnected native habitat pockets and corridors, with the target of preserving biodiversity as much as possible within the intesive cultivation part of a vast acreage. Other parts are also kept as reserves, with no crops. Result is some 50-50 in this case. For the one you have seen in this post and that got you boiling a bit, the result is some 3-90, the 90 being non crop area!

And all this in less than 1% of total acreage available. Just to try to make the impact more easily understood.

I wonder how this paradigm would compare to plain predatory defforestation (e.g. few trees of high value tropical timber being extracted illegally, and later all the rest being levelled for other use, causing the same havoc but obtaining no sustained production of raw fibre for future).

It is not that surprising then that the effort towards balancing the productive part of such large estates with ways to preserve (as much as possible in each case) other non productive areas receives some credit as "environmentally friendly"?

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