Brazil’s government has abolished a vast Amazon nature reserve to open up the area to mining in a decree published on Wednesday. The area, covering 46,000 sq km (17,800 sq miles), straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para, and is thought to be rich in gold, and other minerals.
The four million-hectare reserve, size of the state of Espírito Santo and even greater than Denmark, is home to indigenous people but also rich in gold, manganese among others and about 30 percent of it will be open to mining.
Established in 1984 under the then military dictatorship, the reserve’s protected status restricted mining activities to state companies. The government said nine conservation and indigenous land areas within it would continue to be legally protected.
The region is intensely exploited illegally by invaders. Wednesday’s decree stressed that it does not override other existing environmental protection laws. The mining and energy ministry says protected forest areas and indigenous reserves will not be affected.
A report by the mining ministry in April said that lifting the protected status could provide “access to minerals potentially existing in the region” by letting private companies operate there.
“The objective of the measure is to attract new investments, generating wealth for the country and employment and income for society, always based on the precepts of sustainability,” said Fernando Coelho Filho, mining and energy minister, in a statement.