In early February, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro signed a bill that allows mining and electric power generation in indigenous reserves.
The president’s entourage explained that mining and hydroelectric construction in the reserves is provided for in article 231 of the 1988 Constitution, which has so far not been regulated.
The bill must be submitted to the vote of Congress, where it will have to be approved by the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies before it can be considered effective in all respects. It has faced opposition from leaders of Brazilian indigeous tribes, who rightly say that mining in those lands would erase their cultures and communities. Over 600 indigenous leaders gathered in Mato Grosso last month to arrange a response to the Brazilian Government’s threats to indigenous land. The meeting resulted in a four-page document titled ‘Piaraçu Manifesto’, denouncing the Brazilian government’s project as an act of “genocide, ethnocide and ecocide”.
Bolsonaro said: “We will be pressured by the environmentalists. Those people, if I could, I would confine them to the Amazon region since they like the environment so much.”
The president is extremely skeptical about climate change and sees only environmental claims as conspiracies of foreign interest, aimed at exploiting Brazilian wealth. He has enough allies to obtain a majority of votes in Congress and the support of powerful banks linked to the agri-food industry, which will be decisive.
The ‘Piaraçu Manifesto’ states: “We do not accept gold-digging, mining, agribusiness and leasing of our lands, we do not accept loggers, illegal fishermen, hydroelectric plants and other projects, such as the Ferrogrão [grain railway], that will impact us in a direct and irreversible way.”