The new all-electric model of America’s best-selling pickup truck, the Ford F-150, relies on aluminum to keep it light and give it speed. With no delay from a piston-firing combustion engine, it can bolt like a high-performance sports car from zero to 60 in 4 seconds. It emits no exhaust, makes no sound.
Yet its impact can be heard a world away — in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. That’s where the Ford F-150’s troubled trail of aluminum begins.
The Mineração Rio do Norte bauxite mine, known as MRN, is about 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Fordlândia. Situated in a national forest along a tributary to the Amazon, the mine, which opened in 1979, was part of a government attempt to develop the region — an effort that accelerated in recent years with rampant deforestation under former President Jair Bolsonaro.
The government’s environmental agency doesn’t have resources to conduct independent water testing, says Lúcia M.M. de Andrade, executive coordinator of the Pro-Indio Commission, a nonprofit group that advocates for the rights of Indigenous and traditional communities. “The perception of the company and the perception of the communities about the impacts and benefits are very different,” she says.