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Bolsonaro issues decrees to promote gold mining in the Amazon

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued two decrees for gold prospecting with a focus on the Amazon rainforest, as published Monday in the Official Gazette.

The Program for the Promotion of Small and Artisanal Mining, created by one of the decrees, seeks to strengthen policies and stimulate best practices, according to the text. The Amazon “will be the priority region for development,” he says.

The other decree alters existing laws and regulations, for example, by requiring the national regulatory entity to establish simplified criteria for the analysis of permits for prospecting.

The measures provoked an angry reaction from environmental groups and indigenous defenders, who warned that the decrees will exacerbate the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and lead to the contamination of its rivers with mercury, the chemical used to distill gold.

“They are doing the complete opposite of what a federal government should do,” Larissa Rodrigues, portfolio manager for the environmental group Choices Institute, said by phone. “There is enormous illegality circulating in the supply chain. The government should be combating this illegality instead of promoting it”.

Bolsonaro has been a staunch supporter of exploiting the natural resources of the Amazon since his presidential campaign in 2018, promising to tap the region’s immense mineral wealth, earning him the support of prospectors. Bolsonaro is expected to run for re-election in October.

Several non-governmental organizations have sounded the alarm about how the president’s comments and decreased environmental surveillance during his tenure have encouraged illegal miners and led to an increase in gold mining, causing vast environmental damage in the Amazon rainforest.

But Bolsonaro, who is the son of a prospector, has stuck to his guns. He considers this activity as one of the few alternatives left to the inhabitants of a vast and impoverished region.

“Prospecting represents a high potential for generating wealth and income for a population of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants,” according to a statement from the Secretariat of the Presidency.

An AP investigation last month found that unauthorized landing strips and planes are helping prospectors remove tons of gold from indigenous lands. The gold ends up in the hands of middlemen, some of whom are being investigated for receiving gold from illegal mining. The gold is refined in São Paulo before entering the global supply chain.

Last week, the Choices Institute released a study according to which 229 tons of gold with indications of illegality were sold from 2015 to 2020, that is, approximately half of the national production and most of which originated in The Amazon. The study was based on the analysis of more than 40,000 sales records and satellite images of production sites.

Rodrigues added that simplifying the process for obtaining mining permits could lead to a wave of new license requests or the removal of all backlogs from the regulatory agency, causing “a total lack of control.”

Source: Gestion

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