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Brazil court blocks Amazon mining decree

August 30, 2017

The presidential decree opening up the Renca reserve in northern Brazil had been met with protests and a partial climbdown. But the attorney general is to appeal the federal court decision suspending the mining.

A clandestine gold mine in Para state in 2009
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Scorza

Judge Rolando Spanholo at the federal court in Brasilia suspended the government decree that would have opened a huge Amazon reserve in the north of Brazil to commercial mining.

The court statement read it had "partially granted an injunction to immediately suspend any administrative act" to scrap the National Reserve of Copper and Associates, between the northern states of Para and Amapa.

Spanholo said that the government had failed to consult Congress, as required under the constitution, and that the decree would "put at risk the environmental protection (of Renca) and the protection of local indigenous communities."

While the government had appeared to back off its decision on Tuesday, the center-right government's attorney general said it would appeal Wednesday's court order. The government claimed that areas within the reserve, including where indigenous people live, would remain off limits.

Lifting protection in place since 1984

President Michel Temer's decree published in the official government gazette earlier in August would have allowed mining in an area of roughly 17,800 square miles (46,100 square kilometers) that has been protected since 1984. It is believed to be a significant resource of gold, copper, iron ore and other minerals, has a rich biodiversity and is home to myriad species that have yet to be studied. Temer claimed that opening up the area to mining was part of his program to boost Brazil's weak economy.

Amapa Senator Randolfe Rodrigues called the decree the "worst attack on the Amazon in history" and said the fight to protect the land had only just begun. He said "we're going to do everything we can," including appealing to Pope Francis. Last month while he was visiting Ecuador, Pope Francis voiced his support for the Amazon, and the people who live there, to be better protected.

According to government data, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon increased 29 percent last year.

Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, a number of celebrities including Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen and Brazil's influential Catholic hierarchy have spoken out against the government attempt to open the reserve. "Pressure is working. We mustn't stop," Greenpeace said after the court ruling.

jm/kms (Reuters, AFP, EFE)