Brazil court deals blow to massive Amazon gold mine project

Apr 25, 2022, 5:10 AM | Updated: 5:46 pm
FILE - Indigenous people painted with red ink representing spilled Indigenous blood and clay repres...

FILE - Indigenous people painted with red ink representing spilled Indigenous blood and clay representing gold, march during a protest against the increase of mining activities that are encroaching on their land, in front of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, April 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A Brazilian federal court on Monday upheld the suspension of an environmental license for what would be the largest open-pit gold mine in the nation’s Amazon rainforest, dealing a blow to the Canada-based company behind the project.

Belo Sun Mining Corp. was appealing the same court’s 2017 ruling, which found that the company’s consultation with local Indigenous peoples and study on the project’s socio-environmental impacts didn’t meet the criteria required by the National Indian Foundation.

In a 3-0 vote, the court maintained its prior ruling. Belo Sun can appeal the decision to a higher court.

The company’s Volta Grande project is located on the banks of the Xingu River, in the state of Para. It is located about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from Belo Monte, the world’s third-biggest hydroelectric dam. The Belo Monte dam has reduced the flow in the Volta Grande (Big Bend) stretch of the Xingu River, where the Belo Sun project is located. Among other impacts, the fish population, a staple for the local population, is diminishing.

“My community wasn’t consulted about the Belo Sun project,” Lorena Curuaia, a leader from the Iawa village, told The Associated Press by phone. “Belo Monte already has had a major impact on the Xingu. A second project could mean the death of the local peoples.”

Belo Sun has argued that it already consulted the Indigenous peoples, and that their closest community is more than 10 km (6 miles) away. The Federal Prosecutors’ Office states that the company only considered officially demarcated areas, and that Indigenous communities outside these places should also be taken into account.

Contacted by phone and email Monday, Belo Sun’s office in Brazil didn’t respond to AP requests for comment about the court’s decision or if it would appeal.

According to the company, the project covers 2,400 hectares (5,930 acres).

“This is another victory for the Indigenous and riverine people of Volta Grande do Xingu,” federal prosecutor Felício de Araújo Pontes Jr. said in a text message. “They know that a mining project can have devastating impacts on the region. The judgment shows the resilience of this population.”

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Brazil court deals blow to massive Amazon gold mine project