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Brazil: miners’ union defends Amazon reserve

8 September, 2017A Brazilian miners’ union is campaigning against opening the Amazon rainforest to mining operations.

On 23 August, right wing Brazilian President Michel Temer abolished a reserve in the Amazon rainforest, making it available for exploitation by mining companies. The National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca) protected 46,000 square km, an area larger than Denmark.
The reserve in is believed to have significant reserves of copper, gold, iron ore, tantalum, nickel and manganese. More than 20 Brazilian and international mining companies have expressed an interest in developing the area.
A Brazilian federal judge temporarily halted the plan last week. However, campaigners believe that Temer will push the plan through Congress.
Brazil has a terrible history of tragic mining disasters leaving a toxic legacy. In 2015 a dam at the Samarco mine in Mariana burst, killing 19 people, displacing 500 more, and poisoning the watercourse.

IndustriALL affiliate the Confederacão Nacional dos Ramos Quimicos da Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CNQ-CUT) has expressed its opposition to Temers’ plan.

In a statement, the CNQ-CUT said:
“The heart of the Amazon forest, which is important not just in terms of the national environmental, but also owing to its great influence on the dynamics of global climate, was abolished by the stroke of a pen by the usurper Michel Temer.
“The large mining companies had access to privileged information regarding the government’s actions in advance. The people did not take part in any discussion. Environmentalists, social movements and the local community were not consulted.
“There was no debate; the measures benefit only the market. There is a need to discuss which model of economic and social development the country wants to adopt. Actions that prioritize primary resource extraction for foreign markets are part of an outdated and backward model that only concentrates wealth.
“Brazilian tragedies involving mining are numerous. We are talking about workers mutilated and contaminated due to the negligence of corporations, deforestation, polluted rivers, populations affected socially by human rights violations and even by restricted access to drinking water etc.

“The environment suffers irreversible damage and future generations will be negatively impacted. This is the “cursed inheritance” of the Serra Pelada gold rush and all of the associated social and environment regressions. Or of Mariana, and the great crime that remains unpunished.”

The CNQ-CUT says that in order to be for the Amazon, campaigners need to oppose the Temer government, and the companies who support him.

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches said:

“Turning a large part of the Amazon rainforest into a mining concession would be a disaster. Mineworkers want jobs, but not at the expense of the natural environment and the indigenous communities who live there.

“We need a mining industry that provides safe and secure jobs, is environmentally sustainable and culturally sensitive. We call on the world to support the CNQ-CUT defense of the forest, and to oppose the corporate takeover of Brazil by the Temer government.”

Since 1970, more than 19 per cent of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed due to economic activity. The destruction of the rainforest contributes to climate change. The Amazon produces about 20 per cent of the Earth’s oxygen.