Fepasa will connect Santana do Araguaia in the south with the port of Vila do Conde in Barcarena near the state capital Belém.

According to the state’s minister for economic development, mining and energy Mr Adnan Demachki, extending the line 58km from Rondon do Pará to Açailândia in the state of Maranhão would connect Fepasa with FNS and the Carajás Railway (EFC).

This means companies using the FNS will have access to a port in Pará for export traffic, providing an alternative to the port of Itaqui near São Luis, in Maranhão, which is served by EFC.

Brazil’s federal government has already informed the state of Pará via an official letter of intent that it wants to realise the Fepasa project, which could now emerge as an alternative to the northern section of FNS.

The total cost of Fepasa and expansion of the port is estimated to be around Reais 14bn ($US 4.5bn) and the line would have capacity to carry up to 170 million tonnes of freight annually.

On August 3 the government of Pará held a technical meeting for entrepreneurs in São Paulo and will make another presentation in Brasilia in the coming weeks. In addition, it will hold public hearings in the 23 towns along the route. Tendering is expected to begin before the end of the year.

Regarding demand, Demachki said two customers have come forward which already guarantee the viability of Fepasa. “Vale, Brazil's largest mining company, will participate in the project and will use the line for its freight, although the volumes involved are still under study by the company,” he says. “In addition, the Norwegian company Norsk Hydro will sign a commitment to transport approximately five million tonnes per year.”

As for environmental licensing and social and legal obstacles, Demachki says that the alignment does not pass through indigenous or quilombola areas or dense forest. Environmental licensing is already being conducted by state agencies.

Demachki also says that Fepasa has attracted interest from logistics companies from Russia, China and Korea, while the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) is expected to participate in financing the project.