The Government of Brazil in August 2017 abolished a vast national reserve in the Amazon to open up the area to mining.
The area covers 46000 sq km and straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para. The area is believed to be rich in gold, zinc, phosphate, manganese and other minerals.
The government went on to state that nine conservation and indigenous land areas within it would, however, continue to be legally protected.
Why the reserve is thrown open to mining?
• President Michel Temer issued a decree that abolished a protected area known as the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca).
• The size of the Reserve, which was created in 1984 to prevent mining activity from excessively encroaching on wildlife and indigenous communities, is even larger than Denmark.
• As per the decree, about 30 per cent of the area will be opened to mining.
• The decree also states that it does not override other existing environmental protection laws, such as protections for native vegetation and nature conservation areas.
• The park includes nine different protected zones, two of which are indigenous lands where mining is completely banned. However, at least four other zones appear to be accessible to regulated mining activity.
• As per the government, the objective of the measure is to attract new investments, generating wealth for the country and employment and income for society.
• The environmentalists and campaign groups like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have expressed concern about the environmental threat to the reserve from potential mining projects.
• Opposition Senator Randolfe Rodrigues condemned the move and tagged the decree as "the biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years."
• Mauricio Voivodic, Head of WWF in Brazil, also warned that mining in the area would lead to "demographic explosion, deforestation, the destruction of water resources, the loss of biodiversity and the creation of land conflict".
• Also, as per a report of the WWF, the main area of interest for copper and gold exploration is in one of the protected areas, the Biological Reserve of Maicuru.
• The WWF also warned that there is potential for conflict too in two indigenous reserves that are home to various ethnic communities living in relative isolation.
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