Journal article Open Access

Brazilian Amazon indigenous peoples threatened by mining bill

Rorato, Ana; Camara, Gilberto; Escada, Isabel; Picoli, Michelle; Moreira, Tiago; Verstegen, Judith

The Brazilian Amazon has the highest concentration of indigenous peoples in the world. Recently, the Brazilian government sent a bill to Congress to regulate commercial mining in indigenous lands. This work analyzes the risks of the proposed mining bill to Amazonian indigenous peoples and their lands. To evaluate the possible impact of the new mining bill, we consider all mining license requests registered in Brazil’s National Mining Agency that overlap indigenous lands as potential mining areas in the future. The existing mining requests cover 176 000 km2 of indigenous lands, a factor 3000 more than the area of current illegal mining. Considering only these existing requests, about 15% of the total area of ILs in the region could be directly affected by mining if the bill is approved. Ethnic groups like Yudj´a, Kayap´o, Apalaí, Wayana, and Katuena may have between 47% and 87% of their lands impacted. Gold mining, which has previously shown to cause mercury contamination, death of indigenous people due to diseases, and biodiversity degradation, accounts for 64% of the requested areas. We conclude that the proposed bill is a significant threat to Amazonian indigenous peoples, further exposing indigenous peoples to rural violence, contamination by toxic pollutants, and contagious diseases. The obligation of the government is to enforce existing laws and regulations that put indigenous rights and livelihoods above economic consideration and not to reduce such protections.

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