During Operation “Ipe”, authorities in Brazil seized more than 130 thousand cubic meters of wood. That’s equivalent to about 6,200 truckloads. According to the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) – a branch of the Brazilian Public Prosecutor’s Office, the wood is illegal.

Timber barge gets stranded on the Mamuru River

The events leading up to this historic seizure of wood began on November 15, when the Federal Police in Brazil seized a timber barge that ran aground in the Mamuru River, in Parintins, Amazonas. (View map).

Location of Mamuru River timber seizure that sparked the seizure of 130,000 cubic meters of timber.
2,700 cubic meters of logs seized on Mamuru River in the municipality of Paratins on November 15. Image: Timber Risk Map

The species of logs being transported did not correspond to the species declared in the Forest Guides. The barge contained about 2,700 cubic meters of logs.

Logs on barge in the Rio Mamuru seized
Timber barge seized in Paratins presumably loaded with illegal timber. Photo: Policia Federal do Brasil

Soon after, reports emerged that more barges were involved, and that the total volume of timber seized exceeded 6,000 cubic meters. Species included Ipe and Massaranduba.

Other reasons for the timber seizure emerged as well. The documents of forest origin (DOF) were allegedly forged.

And the declared value of the timber appears to have been wrong. Based on reports, the declared value per cubic meter of log was only about US$ 40/m3.

Operation Ipe is launched

In response to these initial seizures, the Federal Police and the MPF launched “Operacao Handroanthus”. The latter word in reference to the genera of species commonly traded as “Ipe”.

It’s estimated that the operation seized more than 130 thousand cubic meters of logs in the area bordering the states of Pará and Amazonas.

About 42,000 cubic meters of logs were seized in the municipality of Itaituba.
About 42,000 cubic meters of logs were seized in the municipality of Itaituba. Image: Timber Risk Map

According to reports from the MPF and the Ministry of Defense, it seems that the most significant volume of timber – about 42,000 m3 – was seized roughly 200 kilometers from Itaituba, Pará.

Military secures seized timber in Itaituba

The scale of the seizure is so significant that soldiers from the Ministry of Defense have been called in. They are providing security and logistical support for the agents measuring the seized timber.

Army soldiers occupy a lumber company that had about 40,000 cubic meters of wood seized.
Soldiers from the 53º Selva Infantry Battalion occupy the log yard of a timber company that had more than 40,000m3 of wood seized in Itaituba. Photo: Ministry of Defense
Military secures timber in a log yard in Itaituba. Source: 53º Batalhão de Infantaria de Selva

Securing, measuring and transporting the logs seized in Operation Handroanthus is expected to take weeks. One of the big questions that remains is… what will happen to all of this timber?

While seized timber is often destroyed, there have been calls to donate this timber for public works. There is opposition to auctioning it, for fear that the timber would return to the hands of the suspected offenders, through intermediaries.

Historical timber seizure will take years to resolve

The volume of timber seized in the Operation is more than double the largest previous seizure in Brazil. In 2010, sixty-five thousand cubic meters of wood were seized. That timber also originated in western Pará.

As in most cases of forest law violations in Brazil, the legal processes that will follow this historical event will likely go on for many years.

Last updated December 28, 2020 6:37am EST

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Header photo: Cipa/PM