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Indigenous groups seek support to regularize mining in their territories

They don’t have as much space in the media as those who are against it. But a delegation of indigenous people who defend mining on their own lands was in Brasília, between the 4th and 8th of April, seeking support for a project that is being voted on in the Chamber of Deputies and regulates the exploitation of mineral, water and organic resources. in indigenous reserves.

Composed of representatives of at least 30 different ethnicities of regions of Brazil and seven legally organized entities, the group met with parliamentarians, representatives of the Parliamentary Agricultural Front and with the Minister of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) Gilmar Mendes.

At the beginning of March, the urgency for voting on the bill was approved 191/2020, authored by the Executive, at the request of Deputy Ricardo Barros (PP-PR), government leader in the Chamber. The project is expected to enter the voting agenda by the end of April.

War in Ukraine accelerates voting

The war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia, which make it difficult to import fertilizers, sped up Congressional approval of the proposal. Despite being a giant in agricultural production, Brazil is not self-sufficient in potassium, an essential raw material for the manufacture of fertilizers. About 96% of the potash is imported, a large portion coming from Russia and Belarus.

Countless deposits of potassium in the Amazon, such as Autazes, a city 191 km from Manaus, are pointed out as a solution to this dependence . However, part is located in areas in the process of being recognized as indigenous. The Constitution authorizes mining in indigenous territory, subject to authorization by the Legislature and consultation with the affected communities, but there is no law that regulates the activity.

In this way, predatory explorations occur, such as mining, many often carried out by the indigenous people themselves. The indigenous people of the Munduruku ethnic group, for example, have suffered several interventions in the last year by the Federal Public Ministry in order to censure their desire to seek support for the liberation of mining on their lands. There were also several Federal Police operations in their territory, with equipment and even villages burned.

In addition, indigenous people who seek to carry out large-scale agriculture on their lands are hampered by legal obstacles, which bar partnership with non-indigenous people. Even with the execution of Terms of Adjustment of Conduct with the Public Ministry, the indigenous people suffer from actions by the government against land leases.

The demands of indigenous people

)Indígenas desenvolvimentistas se encontram com autoridades em Brasília. (Da esquerda para a direita) Marcilio Rosa, Felisberto Filho (Umutina), Raimundo da Silva (Guajajara), Gilmar Mendes e Ubiratan Maia (Wapixana)

Developmentalist indigenous meet with authorities in Brasília. (From left to right) Marcilio Rosa, Felisberto Filho (Umutina), Raimundo da Silva (Guajajara), Gilmar Mendes and Ubiratan Maia (Wapixana)

According to lawyer Ubiratan Maia, an indigenous person from the Wapishana ethnic group from Roraima, president of UNIB (National Union of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil) ) and leader of the delegation, there was strong interest in the agendas presented and there is great expectation that the legislature will approve the matter.

“We have been there for at least 30 years waiting for this. We want really clear and objective legal rules, not the current draconian legislation”, he says.

Maia says that the group seeks support for the PL

because he believes that it will bring a clearer and more effective legal framework for carrying out economic activities on indigenous lands. For Maia, the project is not just about mining, but is above all a bill that aims to structure the country, favoring the whole of society.

“Yes, we want mining, agriculture and livestock on a large scale, forest management, agro-industries, exploration of hydrocarbons, partnerships with the state and private initiative in works of regional and national interests. These issues are included in this bill and can greatly help the lives of indigenous ethnicities”, says Maia.

To Josias Manhuary Munduruku, president of the Munduruku Indigenous Cooperative of Alto Tapajós and vice-president of the association indigenous Pusuru, the regularization of mining will bring greater legal certainty and reduce conflicts between indigenous people linked to NGOs, who do not want to have mining or agriculture on their lands.

“Our people have been working with mining since the decade of 26. Our grandparents already practiced this activity and today we depend on it for our youth. That is why we are excited about the vote on this bill”, says Josias.

The chief and farmer Raimundo Guajajara, president of the Supreme Council of Guajajaras Chiefs and president of the Kopyhar indigenous cooperative – resident of Aldeia Belo Sonho Buritirana, in the Bacuruizinho Indigenous Land, in Maranhão – believes that the bill will give indigenous communities the opportunity to carry out economic development activities in the approved areas.

“We also want to be contributors to society. Enough of seeing our people starving, in misery and suffering. We no longer want to depend on the government, we want development, autonomy and freedom for our people”, said the chief, who highlights the possibility of a justified veto for indigenous groups that do not want this type of enterprise.

Indigenous people camp in Brasília against PL191

The visit to Brasília of indigenous developmentalists coincides with the 12 th edition of Acampamento Terra Livre (ATL), an annual event organized by the NGO Articulação dos Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB). The camp, which has not been held in the last two years because of the pandemic, started on the 4th and ends this Thursday (04).

The main focus of this edition was the PL191 , which APIB alleges is unconstitutional and violates indigenous rights; and also the vote on the Temporal Framework, in the STF, which should be resumed in June and will assess whether the recognition of lands of immemorial indigenous occupation extends to those that were not occupied by indigenous people in 1988, when the Federal Constitution was promulgated. In these cases, farmers in areas claimed by indigenists are removed from the land without the right to compensation for their properties.

Another important agenda for the group is the upcoming presidential elections. ATL positions itself as “resistance” to President Jair Bolsonaro, who from the beginning of his administration has shown himself to be in favor of economic exploitation in indigenous lands. The event this Tuesday (12) was attended by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

“We are in an electoral year and to start our journey of struggles, we declare the last year of the genocidal government”, says APIB in a note, which hopes to reach one million signatures in an Open Letter against the PL 191.

International pressure

Indigenous people linked to the ATL have held meetings with embassies, such as Norway and the European Parliament, calling for economic boycotts against Brazil due to the approval of laws by the National Congress. An example of this international pressure was the open letter from German parliamentarians against the actions of Brazilian parliamentarians.

There is also pressure from the judiciary, which is voting on the so-called “green agenda”, a set of seven actions proposed by leftist parties with the support of NGOs to suspend acts of the Presidency of the Republic. The authors intend to resume the plan to combat deforestation, started in 2004, to meet international parameters for combating climate change.

The APIB indigenous people also seek to strengthen the “Parlaíndio Brasil”, an initiative financed by the French Embassy that aims to form a “parallel parliament” within the country to “give voice and political visibility to indigenous leaders”. The proposal was on the institution’s page, but was removed from the air in recent days after complaints on social networks. However, it can be accessed here. The group intends to have captive representation in Congress and the Judiciary, as well as recognition by the international community.

On the other hand, indigenous people who support economic development projects also sent a letter to President Bolsonaro, addressed also to foreign embassies and the European Parliament, asking that they be heard in the public debate regarding economic development projects in their lands. At the beginning of April, Senator Plínio Valério (PSDB-AM) read a letter from the indigenous people of the Baniwa ethnic group on the Senate floor, denouncing that NGOs are co-opting leaders to block the autonomy of their people.

Mineração sustainable

It is possible to reconcile the interests of national sovereignty with the interests of indigenous communities based on respect and prior listening to indigenous peoples, says geologist Daniel Borges Nava, master and doctor in Sciences of the Environment and Sustainability in the Amazon by the Federal University of Amazonas. Nava cites the Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of 191, which recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to define their own priorities for development.

He explains that it is possible to have sustainable mining, if there is investment in corporate social responsibility and operation under standards of excellence in socio-environmental governance. He adds that there are differences between mining and the mining that is carried out today on indigenous lands.

“In mining, mining areas are chosen after exhaustive investment in geological research and only good prospects become mines. , or mineral mining. In mining areas this is not carried out and some mining areas are formed through “gossip”, without any mining plan and geological knowledge of mineral reserves”, he explained.

For Nava, there is a model mining predators that should be avoided, such as Mariana and Brumadinho, where financial business interests prevailed over operational and environmental risk management. But these would be isolated cases that tend to be increasingly reduced due to the increasing rigidity in the control and transparency of contemporary mining activities.

“Discussing mining in Indigenous Lands is an essentially Amazonian problem. In Brazil, 26, 1% of protected areas and 98, 4% of the Indigenous Lands are in the Amazon”, he concluded.

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