More room for foreign capital, more flexibility with environmental laws, the destruction of the environment and attacks against the rights of indigenous people. According to the Movement for People’s Sovereignty Over Mining (MAM) and the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), these will be the consequences of the Mining Development Program (PMD) announced this past Monday, September 28th, by the Federal government.
The program defines the Bolsonaro agenda for the mining sector between 2020 and 2023, and includes 110 goals divided up into ten major themes. Among them, are the advancement of mining activities into new areas, legal security for companies, the expansion of geological knowledge within the sector, funding and investments, as well as innovation and sustainability.
The PMD has been in the works since 2019, with discussions that also stimulated Proposed Law 191, which proposes the regulation of mining activities inside indigenous lands and the building of dams. The proposal which was widely criticized by civil society, was vetoed by the opposition and has stalled in the national Congress.
Besides mining in indigenous territories, these bills will allow for more extraction inside buffer zones, and the speeding up of a process that allows for the public financing of private mining company’s activities.
In the view of Heider Bazo, one of MAB’s national coordinators, these plans and the declarations coming from government officials, make their greed over the Amazon ever clearer.
“Just like large scale agriculture advances in the region, seeking better lands to expand their soy and corn plantations, the mining sector is also advancing underground. We know these lands possess large quantities of rare earth minerals, some of which, like niobium, are described by the government as being of special interest,” MAB’s coordinator explained.
Attracting entrepreneurs from the national, but mainly from the international market, is a top priority of the Mining Development Plan. For example, president Jair Bolsonaro was there at its launch ceremony alongside Bento Albuquerque, Minister of Energy and Mining, where he declared that “Brazil has great potential to explore the sector together with foreign countries”.
Another point of contention of the PMD is the incentive to mine in poorer areas, with the argument that they will further develop with the arrival of mineral exploration.
However, Heider Bazo from the MAB emphasizes that the social impacts mining has on towns is far from being the development touted by the government.
“Communities historically in need become even more vulnerable due to mining activity, that creates social, economical and environmental impacts through the years in a chronic manner, if not in an immediate one, which we see when dams collapse”, he declared.
As an example, he cites the rupturing of the Mariana and Brumadinho dams, both in the state of Minas Gerais, where the companies responsible for the mines, Vale and BHP Billiton, provided insufficient reparations.
The MAB coordinator highlights that mining activity brings about physical and mental damage to the day to day lives of local populations.
The so-called elevation of sustainability standards in the sector is mentioned several times in the Plan. However, faced with the environmental destruction we are currently witnessing, activists are certain these measures will never be implemented.