Judge halts Vale rail project close to most threatened tribe

A judge has ordered Vale, Brazil's largest mining company, to suspend plans to double a controversial railway track, which would have put the livelihoods of the Earth's most threatened tribe in jeopardy.

In a major setback for the mining giant, the ruling demands an immediate freeze on expansion work along the Carajás railway, and sets a daily penalty of $25,000 for any breach.

The forest home of Brazil's Awá tribe lies next to the existing railway, along which 2km-long trains run hauling 100 million tonne of iron ore each year from the world's largest iron ore mine.

Vale's Carajás mine and expansion of the railway line has already opened up parts of Brazil's Amazon to ranchers and logging companies and settlers, uprooting and displacing the Awás from the early 1980s.

The mining giant had also planned to expand this stretch of railway line to allow these trains to run simultaneously in both directions, to increase capacity. Although Vale does not have a license to double the whole length of the Carajás railway line, which is currently single track, it had commence construction in parts.

The Indians have vocally contested the mining giant's plans, which they say threaten their livelihoods and those of their uncontacted relatives.