Bolsonaro’s decree will create illegal gold rush in the Amazon, says Greenpeace

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President Jair Bolsonaro’s (PL) decree to support artisanal mining will create an illegal gold rush in the Amazon and boost new cases of ferry use like the one on the Madeira River, says Greenpeace.

This Monday (14), the federal government published two decrees on mining. One of them presents the Pro-Mapa (Support Program for the Development of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining).

“The decree tells the miners: do not fear, I will regularize you. This message goes against the PF’s duty [Polícia Federal] to combat mining, for example. But there was no way to criticize the PF or stop it. Then you have to legalize what is illegal,” says Danicley Aguiar, spokesperson for Greenpeace’s Amazon campaign.

Bolsonaro is a longtime supporter of mining and has garimpeiros as his supporters. However, he was criticized after the action on the Madeira River in December, when more than 100 ferries were destroyed by Ibama and the Federal Police.

On the day of the action, deputies even met with members of the government to stop the action. One of the arguments used was that the garimpeiros practiced artisanal mining.

This Monday, in a note, the General Secretariat of the Presidency said that the Pro-Mapa “inaugurates a new perspective of public policies on mining activity in Brazil”. For Greenpeace, however, the decree comes in a context of electoral dispute in which Bolsonaro wants to wave to his electoral base.

According to Aguiar, currently, with the use of technology, the impact of mining has increased. He cites the example of ferries, such as those seen on the Madeira River, to argue that there is not much difference between the small and the large garimpeiro.

“There is a debate that these activities that are carried out with R$ 1 million dredgers on rafts, with hydraulic excavators, could be classified as artisanal activity. Most people who understand the legislation know that this does not fit”, he says.

For Greenpeace, this signal that this type of mining can be legalized is the main impact of the decree.

“The guy who was thinking about investing in mining, but was afraid of the PF or Ibama, will put money because he thinks Bolsonaro will legalize it. The impact is much more political-psychological. It will stimulate a wave, an illegal gold rush. , to encourage new mines to be opened, new rafts to be put in the water”, he says.

The Instituto Escolhas, a non-profit association that debates sustainability, also spoke out against the decrees in a note and asked for the repeal of the acts of Jair Bolsonaro.

“With these two decrees, the volume of gold with signs of illegality, which already exceeds 200 tons, tends to grow, further undermining the country’s credibility, which has no way of proving the origin of the gold it exports”, says an excerpt from the document.

The entity claims that the decrees encourage mining and will contribute to increasing the negative impacts of the activity in the Amazon region.

“It means that the mines that operate illegally will have an institutional framework for their operation. That is, instead of inspecting and putting an end to illegal mines, the government is opening an institutional space for these activities to become legal”, says the Institute.

Former director of the ANM (National Mining Agency), lawyer Tomás de Paula Pessoa Filho defends the decrees issued by the government.

For him, currently, there is no differentiation and “artisanal mining is subject to the same rules and criteria, even having a smaller impact than large-scale mining”.

“Therefore, the search for regularization and the development of the activity was more than expected — especially in a sector that generates wealth and favors our positive trade balance”, he says.

In addition to the artisanal mining decree, the government published another text that aims at the ANM rules for analyzing the granting processes.

Environmentalists claim that the text relaxes the rules and aims to meet foreign interests brought together in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) guidelines.

The OECD authorized the start of negotiations for Brazil’s entry into the group of rich countries and, last week, issued a recommendation in its reports on mining in the country.

According to the former director of the ANM, Bolsonaro’s decrees “meet well” the recommendations on how the activity in the country should be treated.

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