Brazil launches plan to expand mining in the Amazon

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been criticized for his plans to expand gold mining in the Amazon.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday launched a plan to expand gold mining in the Amazon rainforest, drawing criticism from environmentalists for backing an industry accused of rampant deforestation, pollution and attacks on people indigenous.

Bolsonaro signed a decree creating a program to support the development of artisanal mining, a controversial activity known as “garimpo” that occupies a kind of legal gray area in Brazil.

The decree states that the objective is to “propose public policies and stimulate the development of artisanal and small-scale mining, promoting the sustainable development of the region and the nation”.

It also creates an interministerial commission on artisanal mining, whose “priority region” will be the nine states that make up 60% of Brazil in the Amazon.

Artisanal miners, or “garimpeiros”, divide Brazil.

Bolsonaro, whose father was once a “garimpeiro”, defends the savage miners as tough frontiersmen.

Critics paint a different picture.

Mining destroyed a record 125 square kilometers (nearly 50 square miles) of the Brazilian Amazon last year, more than twice the size of Manhattan.

Much of the destruction has taken place on protected indigenous reservations.

The use of mercury to separate gold dust from soil has also left toxic pollution in rivers.

Prosecutors say illegal gold miners have links to organized crime and there have been deadly clashes between armed miners and indigenous groups who oppose them.

Artisanal mining is legal in Brazil, provided the miners have environmental licenses and work on permitted land.

But many don’t.

The government estimates that there are 4,000 illegal miners operating in indigenous territory in the Amazon. Activists say the figure is much higher.

“What (the government) should be doing is proposing and supporting environmental licensing for this activity and monitoring its implementation,” said Suely Araujo of the Climate Observatory, a coalition of environmental groups.

“Instead (…), the Bolsonaro administration seems ready to defend the ‘historic values’ of the sector, that is to say the destruction of the environment,” she said in a statement. communicated.

Bolsonaro, who has pushed to develop agribusiness and mining in the Amazon, has faced international outcry over the destruction of the world’s largest rainforest.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased since the far-right leader took office in 2019, reaching a 15-year high of 13,235 square kilometers from August 2020 to July 2021.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon hits a record high in January

© 2022 AFP

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