Book info

versione italiana

Pig Iron is an independent publication that has been made possible by the precious support of friends, students, photography enthusiasts and a number of associations.
Pig Iron aims to demonstrate that a new kind of social photography is possible – a photography that can make an active contribution in terms of fighting against situations of injustice, that can be used not just as a means of raising awareness and providing information, but also as a way of engaging people and encouraging participation with a view to achieving concrete action. Accordingly, part of the proceeds from the sale of this book will support a project aiming to build a performing arts research and communications center that will be run by young people from Açailândia in northeast Brazil and to support the campaign Justicia nos trilhos.

Photos by: Giulio Di Meo
Text by: Dario Bossi and Francesco Gesualdi
Format: 297 mm x 210 mm
Pages: 200
Photos: 84
Paper: matte coated 170 grams
Cover: matte coated opaque plastic hardcover 150 grams
Book jacket: matte coated paper 150 grams



“Pig Iron” is the first step in the processing of iron ore.
Making pig iron is a dirty business, which is presumably why we in the western world prefer to have it done elsewhere and for it to arrive on our shores nice and clean.
Founded as a small mineral extraction company in 1911, Vale is today a global colossus, with a turnover of 59 billion US dollars, mines in Australia, Mozambique, Canada and Indonesia, and metalworking plants in North America and Europe. The mainstay of its production activities remains, however, the extraction in Brazil of iron ore – of which it is the world’s second biggest producer. To transport the iron ore from the mines situated in Parà to the port of São Luis in the Maranhão, Vale has constructed a railway almost 1000km long, along which the 400 carriages of the world’s longest train each year carries piles of iron-rich mineral ore, won from the bowels of the earth in one of the biggest open pit mines ever excavated. Vale is making massive profits from the export of more than 100 million tonnes of ore every year, bleeding dry the “open veins of Latin America” [1]  to supply a Chinese market experiencing dizzying growth. The plundering of the country’s mineral wealth in search of the ore used to produce pig iron, which represents the first step in the steel production process, is having a violent and indelible impact on the states of Parà and Maranhão, which are among the country’s poorest, with effects including the devastation of forests, pollution, the use of slave labour, the death of people and animals hit by passing trains, the expulsion of entire families and communities to make room for new mines or to expand the railway and increase profits. All that is left for the victims of this economy of enclaves, where trains transporting 60 million dollars a day’s worth of ore thunder by, past huts in which people live on less than 300 dollars a month, is numbing, paralyzing poverty and hopeless tomorrows. The real price of iron [2] is not a question of market logic but instead is heavy with the stories and the closed down, sold out futures of vast numbers of people and huge swathes of Brazilian territory.

[1] The expression belongs to Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano and is the title of one of his books.

[2] The book by Francesco Gesualdi e Dario Bossi, “Il prezzo del ferro”, EMI 2011.

The campaign “Sui binari della giustizia” (Justice on the Rails) was begun in 2007 by Combonian Missionaries operating in various area of Maranhão state in Brazil and quickly gained the support of a number of other groups and organizations, who today help with the running of the campaign’s coordinating body and its network of action. The campaign’s area of priority in the Maranhão is defending the environment and the local populations of the Amazon region (in particular those living close to the Estrada de Ferro Carajás) against damage and exploitation by the iron ore production industry. The campaign is in particular seeking to recruit support for its work in three specific areas of society: popular movements and among the people in general / from the academic world / within local public institutions. The campaign’s three main areas of activity are:
- Study and research (gathering data regarding the environmental impact of the railway, documentation of the damage being done to people and the environment, environmental law, relations between Vale and the towns and villages the railway passes through, comparison of the situation in Carajás with similar situations both in and outside of Brazil, analysis of Vale’s economic/financial data and accounts)
- Training and mobilizing people (seminars, production of informative material, small documentaries, maps, internet pages, training meetings)
- Reinforcing the campaign’s action network, by seeking to involve other relevant groups and movements both nationally and internationally.
A coordinating group made up of representatives from social organizations, professional people, university professors and researchers has already made a start on the work that needs to be done. Make your contribution to the struggle for justice and a fairer distribution of the earth’s riches in support of the people and the environment of the Estrada de Ferro Carajás!