Brazil suspends Belo Sun’s gold mine licence – by Stephanie Nolen (Globe and Mail – July 1, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

RIO DE JANEIRO — A Brazilian court has suspended the environmental and provisional licences of Toronto-based gold miner Belo Sun Mining Corp., putting a significant new obstacle in the way of the company’s plans to develop Brazil’s largest gold mine on a tributary of the Amazon river.

Last November a federal court suspended the company’s environmental permit, saying Belo Sun had not taken necessary steps to analyze the mine’s potential impact on indigenous peoples who live within a few kilometers of the mine site.

In December, Belo Sun won temporary permission to keep operating while awaiting a final ruling on that case. But when the ruling came last week, the judge said that the mine stood to cause “negative and irreversible damage to the quality of life and cultural heritage” of the Juruna and Arara peoples and that Belo Sun must complete a study of this issue before it can proceed.

Mark Eaton, Belo Sun’s CEO, said the indigenous impact study is already under way and that the new ruling does not extend the company’s timeline for production. “It’s had an impact on market psyche as these things always do,” Mr. Eaton said in a telephone interview from Toronto. “But it hasn’t come completely out of the blue.”

Mr. Eaton said the company needs another five months to finish the study, and will “probably appeal” the federal court suspension. “We will be applying for installation licence by end of year,” he said.

However Leonardo Amorim, the lawyer for an environmental organization called the Social Environmental Institute which has been trying to block the mine, said that timeline would be astonishingly fast for such an impact study, which must be co-ordinated with Brazil’s indigenous people’s agency, FUNAI. “These things are extremely complex,” he said.

He said that the ruling “is very big news” and may represent a significant step toward protecting indigenous rights if it is upheld on appeal.

Belo Sun cannot apply for an installation license, and begin work, at the site until it has the environmental license.

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