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Brazil revises Amazon mining decree after outcry

Rebecca Staudenmaier with AP
August 30, 2017

Following a wave of criticism, Brazil's government has issued a new decree on a large nature reserve in the Amazon. The order still strips protections from the area, but says mining won't take place in indigenous areas.

The Amazon rainforest
Image: Getty Images/M. Tama

The administration of Brazilian President Michel Temer has walked back a decree that removed protections on a gold- and copper-rich area of the Amazon rainforest.

In a statement posted on the government's website on Tuesday, the new order seeks "to clarify Brazil's commitment to protecting the environment."

The latest decree still removes the protected status of the National Reserve of Copper and Associate Minerals (Renca). The reserve stretches between two northern Brazilian states and covers around 18,000 square miles (around 46,600 square kilometers) – an area larger than the Netherlands.

However, the latest order states mining will not be allowed to take place in conservation or indigenous areas located in the former reserve.

"The new text firmly reiterates the position that there can be no mining in protected areas," Environment Minister Jose Sarney Filho said in the statement.

Read more: Nature under attack in Brazil

Government assurances

Presidential Chief of Staff Eliseu Padilha said that the new order corrects for the confusion caused by Temer's original order last Wednesday.

"There was a reserve for copper mining that did not involve indigenous or environmental reserves. It has been extended to other minerals without hurting a single square meter of indigenous or environmental reserves," said Padilha.

The government also said the decree will help authorities crack down on illegal mining that was taking place in the reserve while opening the area up to legal mining projects.

Read more: Indigenous land demarcation sparks divisions in Brazil

Environmental concerns remain

Brazil's branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said in a statement that although the government's decree shows more efforts for protecting the area, the risk of environmental damage from mining projects still remains.

Temer's government faced backlash from environmental groups, artists and even model Gisele Bündchen for the original order last week.

WWF warned in a previous report that mining projects in the area would cause "demographic explosion, deforestation, the destruction of water resources, the loss of biodiversity and the creation of land conflict."

Beef eating away forests

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