RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Brazil granted Vale SA a 10-year license to operate a 101-kilometer (63-mile) branch line connecting its $14.3 billion S11D iron ore mine project in the Amazon jungle to the Carajas Railway, the company said in a statement on Friday.
The Carajas Railway branch will allow Vale, the world's largest iron ore exporter, to haul S11D's output to the Port of Ponta da Madeira in Sao Luis, Brasil to ships that will load the product for export.
S11D, also known as Serra Sul, is Vale's largest-ever investment. It is expected to start operations this year and will have an annual capacity of 90 million tonnes, or more than a quarter of Vale's 2015 iron ore output. The first iron ore sale from S11D is expected in early 2017, Vale's press office in Rio de Janeiro said.
The newly-licensed branch line has faced opposition from environmentalists and aboriginal groups because it runs close to indigenous areas by heavily degraded parts of Brazil's Amazon rainforest. (Reporting by Marta Nogueira; Writing by Jeb Blount; editing by Diane Craft)