Brazil pushes plans for mining on tribal lands to European diplomats

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view show a wildcat gold mine, also known as a garimpo, at a deforested area of the Amazon rainforest near Crepurizao, in the municipality of Itaituba, Para State, Brazil, August 6, 2017. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s government on Friday said it was pushing ahead with plans to allow mining on tribal lands, briefing European diplomats on proposals that have drawn criticism from indigenous advocates in Brazil and overseas.

Mining and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque told the diplomats that “significant leadership” from native communities had asked for the opportunity to mine on their lands, according to a public statement on the ministry’s website.

The initiative is part of President Jair Bolsonaro’s push to encourage farming, ranching and mining on tribal reservations, which he has criticized for slowing economic progress. European leaders have voiced concerns that his policies will increase deforestation and threaten indigenous cultures.

“There is a lot of misinformation regarding this issue, so it is important that the international community listen to what the government has to say,” said Alexandre Vidigal, secretary for geology and mining at the ministry, in the statement.

The ministry said representatives of France, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Denmark, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands and the European Union took part in the meeting on Thursday.

The Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), which advocates for native rights in Brazil, has argued against Bolsonaro’s plans to open up mining on reservation lands, saying most indigenous groups are opposed. Conflicts between illegal miners and natives have led to bloodshed on both sides in recent years.

Reporting by Luciano Costa and Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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