In what is being called the biggest attack on the Amazon in fifty years, Brazil has just opened a massive area of the rainforest up to mining. A formerly protected national reserve twice the size of New Jersey, which is home to several indigenous tribes, has been officially abolished and will be turned over to mining interests.
Sadly, the decision wasn’t even made by a democratic body or informed vote, but by a presidential decree which changes rules, effectively abolishing a protected area known as the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca). Brazilian President Michel Temer’s time in office has been marked by scandal and corruption, most notably for offering concessions to big business interests in exchange for money and votes.
“What does it cost to hang onto the office of President? In Brazil, President Michel Temer paid for that privilege with R$13.2 billion (US $4.2 billion) worth of measures — decrees and amendments aimed at securing sufficient votes in the Lower House of Congress to avoid a criminal investigation by the Supreme Court into the president’s alleged corruption. The August 2nd House of Deputies vote allowed Temer to keep his position, for now.” [Source]
This decree is seen by many to be politically motivated, both a reprimand of Temer’s political enemies, as well as a kickback to wealthy industrial interests in the region.
Sadly, deforestation resulting from mining gold, copper, iron and other valuable metals and minerals is incredible destructive and harmful to wildlife. Yet as time goes on more mining projects, both illicit and government sanctioned threaten even greater destruction of the earth’s most precious resource.
Peru has recently stated that mining continues in spite of efforts to crack down on illegal mines, and the problem is getting worse throughout the continent.
“A team of scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science found that, between 1999 and 2016, gold mining expansion cost the region 4,437 hectares (10,964 acres) of forest loss per year. Miners were working an area in 2016 that was 40 percent larger than it was in 2012.” [Source]
With the new move by the Temer administration, the possibility for major conflicts between native populations and colonists working on mining projects is significant. Many in Brazil are also concerned with bringing the gold rush to this region of the Amazon, something which is well-known to destroy local cultures.
The fact that this order was made by decree and not by any kind of vote, when so many varied interests are involved, is a troubling reminder that government can not be trusted to care for the environment.
“If the government insisted on opening up these areas for mining without discussing environmental safeguards it will have to deal with an international outcry.” [Source]
The following video taken in Peru in 2013 gives a bird’s eye view of what mining is doing to the Amazon.