BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s government wants to enact rules that allow mining in indigenous reserves which occupy 13 percent of the country’s territory and hopes it can get Congress to reconsider a decades-old proposal to do so, a Mines and Energy Ministry official told Reuters.
Mining Secretary Alexandre Vidigal de Oliveira was asked to clarify comments made last week by Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque, who said while visiting the United States and Canada that Brazil would seek to open indigenous reserves to mining.
Albuquerque’s remarks sparked an angry response from indigenous advocates, who said it was disrespectful after the country had just suffered it’s largest-ever mining disaster that killed hundreds in January.
The Indigenous Missionary Council on Monday said it “repudiated, with vehement indignation” Albuquerque’s proposal and blasted the administration of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who assumed office on Jan. 1 and has pledged to open more of the country to mining.
“By globally humiliating indigenous peoples of Brazil, the Bolsonaro government humiliates the very Brazilian nation,” it said in a statement. Oliveira defended mining indigenous reserves in an environmentally sustainable manner as bringing needed economic growth.