‘Illegal mining and illegal prospecting go beyond environmental degradation and deforestation. These activities provoke a breakdown of the social and cultural balance, which is already occurring in indigenous territories. In Yanomami lands alone, more than 20,000 miners are destroying forests and poisoning waterways with impunity, in the hope that their illegal acts will soon become decriminalized by the state.’
Amazon Watch’s programme director
If approved, Bolsonaro’s bill has the potential to cause environmental devastation on at least 30% indigenous lands nationwide – an area equivalent to 28 million football fields – in the Amazon alone.
It would affect 160 ethnic groups, 12 of them living in voluntary isolation, according to data compiled by Brazil’s Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA). The number of indigenous peoples that could be affected and the risk of expansive deforestation show that industrial extraction at any cost would have a catastrophic impact.
The Yanomami reserve
The most coveted indigenous land is the Yanomami reserve, located between the states of Roraima and Amazonas. If the 536 requests (made by 58 companies) for this area advance to the final phase, mining could impact 42% of the Yanomami land, with the potential for destruction of 4 million hectares of forest.
In other cases, proposed mining concessions would cover 100% of indigenous territories, such as the Baú and Rio Paru d’Este territories in the Amazonian state of Pará.
Brazil’s Climate Observatory, an NGO coalition of environmental groups, issued a statement asserting that Bolsonaro’s bill ‘also deepens the reputational cliff Bolsonaro has shoved the country onto, consolidating the image of Brazil as a risky destination to productive foreign investment. Responsible investors concerned with the climate crisis will hardly take deforestation and indigenous blood into their portfolios.’
Immorality with ‘no limits’
This bill comes on the heels of Bolsonaro’s appointment of a former evangelical missionary, who has previously pledged to convert every last ‘unreached people’ on Earth, to head of the department for isolated and recently contacted tribes at the indigenous agency FUNAI.
Bolsonaro’s administration also interrupted the distribution of food baskets to 3,000 indigenous families living in indigenous territories not recognised by the state, essentially leaving their families to go hungry.
‘Bolsonaro’s immorality has no limits’, said Amazon Watch’s Christian Poirier. ‘We are witnessing not only the destruction of the Amazon rainforest but an indigenous genocide foretold’.