- Mining company Oxycer has submitted five applications to explore for gold in the Piripkura Indigenous Area in anticipation of the lifting of restrictions in October this year.
- The territory is home to two of the last three surviving Pilipukulla tribes. They live in voluntary isolation and already face the threat of encroachment on their territory by illegal loggers and ranchers.
- Mining in indigenous territories is currently illegal in Brazil. As such, the Federal Ministry of Public Affairs is proceeding with a lawsuit to cancel the mining request filed with the National Mining Administration (ANM).
- However, ANM will continue to accept and register these applications for apparently illegal activities, although it is unclear whether the authorities have yet approved any of them.
The Brazilian company is poised to begin mining within indigenous territories in the Amazon as early as October, highlighting the precarious nature of protections accorded to indigenous lands under the current administration. .
According to data from the Institute for Social and Environmental Studies (ISA), a non-profit advocating for the rights of indigenous and traditional peoples, Oxycer Mining has invested in the national mining industry to explore for gold in the Piripkura Indigenous Area of Mato Grosso State. We have submitted five applications to regulatory authorities.
The territory has not yet been demarcated, not officially recognized by presidential decree, and is currently protected only under a legal mechanism known as a “restriction of use ordinance”. These protective ordinances are temporary in nature and must be renewed periodically. According to the ISA, the Piripkura region ordinance is set to expire on his October 4th, suggesting that Oxycer’s mining application may not be renewed. The Federal Ministry of Public Affairs is calling for the ordinance to be renewed, but according to the ISA, his last two ordinances he was only renewed for six months.
The 243,000-hectare (600,500-acre) Pilipukulla Indigenous Reserve is home to some of the world’s most vulnerable and uncontacted indigenous peoples. He is the only known surviving Piripukura individual. Uncle and nephew Pakhi and Tamandua live in voluntary isolation in Piripukura territory. Meanwhile, Rita, Paki’s younger sister and the only one of the trio with long-term contact with the outside world, lives in the Kalypuna Indigenous Territory. neighboring Rondonia. Pilipukulla has suffered at least two slaughters of her since first contact with outsiders in the 1980s and is now once again endangered.
In recent years, there has been an increase in outsider encroachment into Piripukulla territory and deforestation for illegal grazing and logging. At the same time, Funai, the federal agency responsible for indigenous affairs, has taken little action to address the issue. This is a recurring problem under President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration.
“We need to mobilize public authorities and Funai and continue to apply pressure to ensure that the federal public ministry’s public civil lawsuit seeking definitive demarcation of Pilipukulla is terminated urgently. Peoples’ Articulation (APIB) told Mongabay in an email: “We cannot allow another human being to become extinct.”
InfoAmazonia reports that Pakyî and Tamandua are also at risk as more companies obtain exploration and mining permits in the surrounding areas of Piripkura. Based on ISA data, deforestation in the region in 2021 has surged compared to recent years. The NGO’s Alerts+ platform also detected that forest fires had damaged his 303.5 hectares (816.7 acres) of land in the area.
Thiago Moreira, an ISA research analyst, said in an email to Mongabay that these threats have prompted the Bolsonaro regime to “dismantle” protections for indigenous groups and encourage private companies in hopes of opportunities to mine on indigenous lands. Moreira said this was a grave risk to tribes like the Piripukura, who were voluntarily isolated and unable to assert themselves against these invasions. said Mr.
By allowing companies to begin registering their interest in exploring these lands, Moreira said, it opens up indigenous territories to illegal activity in advance. Data published by nonprofit news media Agência Pública In 2019, the first year of the Bolsonaro administration, there was a 91% increase in applications to mine indigenous lands, according to an analysis by Bolsonaro.
The Brazilian Constitution prohibits mining on indigenous lands, with or without boundaries. But the sheer volume of mining applications is fueling government efforts to push for large-scale mining and resource extraction on these lands.
“Today, deforestation is almost unrestricted within the Pilipukulla Indigenous Reserve. There is active ranching in the area, as evidenced by research conducted by the ISA,” Moreira said. .
He added that enforcement measures by IBAMA, the federal environmental protection agency, alone are not enough to deter intruders. “With increasing deforestation and shrinking territories, it is more likely that the remaining piripucula, which depend heavily on the environment in which they live, will not be able to survive,” Moreira said.
Oxycer specifically states on its website that it has begun applying for exploration permits on Indigenous lands in anticipation of legislation to support mining activities. The law in question is bill PL 191/2020, championed by the Bolsonaro government and advocating the opening of indigenous lands to mining and hydroelectric power plants. Congress swiftly introduced the bill earlier this year, but it has yet to enter the House of Representatives, the House of Commons.
However, the ongoing political climate may derail the bill. Brazil will hold elections in October, with Bolsonaro seeking his second term. His possible opponent is former President Lula da Silva, who polls consistently show as the favorite. Mr Lula has voiced his objection to PL 191/2020.
Nevertheless, Oxycer has outlined an ambitious plan to “prioritize mining areas on indigenous lands” and has pledged to work with indigenous groups in the process.
“With respect to the economic sector, Oxycer Mining has a firm policy of sharing with indigenous peoples all economic and financial advances from mining on indigenous lands and following and adhering to the precepts of the law,” the company said. As stated on the website, PL 191/2020 stipulates that 50% of mining profits must be donated to indigenous communities in the affected areas.
Mongabay has reached out to Oxycer for comment on how it plans to mine for gold in uncontacted tribal territories. The company did not respond.
A representative of the National Mining Agency (ANM), which handles mining applications, said in an email that the agency’s role is only “to guide our agency’s activities in compliance with the laws and regulations contained in the Brazilian legal system.” said.
When asked to confirm whether it had approved five applications for Oxycer to mine in the Piripukulla region in anticipation that the ban would not be renewed, ANM did not respond to multiple requests for clarification. .
“It’s a pervasive risk when you talk about areas with isolated people like Pilipukulla,” Moreira said. “The presence of these applications, which are considered illegal under Brazilian law, may encourage new incursions into this territory.”
Mining in indigenous territories is illegal whether bordered or not, Applying Carrying out this illegal activity falls into a gray area at the heart of the current battle for the integrity of the Pilipukulla Indigenous Reserve.
The Federal Department of Public Affairs (MPF) seeks to use lawsuits to reverse these applications, even though they have not been fully approved by ANM. The ANM’s interpretation of the law allowing these requests to be submitted even without a public consultation process violates both the Brazilian Constitution and Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which Brazil has ratified. said that
Known as the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Congress of 1989, the treaty establishes that indigenous peoples around the world have the right to self-determination on their ancestral lands, and if the laws on their rights are subject to change. At all times, there should be “free, prior and informed consultation”. .
In light of this, the MPF has initiated a lawsuit to prevent these mining applications from being filed in the State of Para. A representative from his MPF office in Matt Grosso was on vacation and could not confirm whether the ministry was considering similar action against his mining application in the Piripkura area.
Because the Piripkura are an indigenous people living in voluntary isolation, companies applying for mining permits follow a consultation process outlined in the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) ordinance before ANM considers the request. is needed. His MPF in Para. The council determines the need for impact studies to assess the isolation of tribes and their impact on the surrounding land.
In a text message to Mongabay, an MPF spokesperson said the issue was controversial from a legal standpoint. MPF considers such applications illegal, but ANM disagrees. . For the MPF, the simple act of approving and registering these applications before examining or approving the applications is already in violation of Convention No. 169, as stipulated in the Brazilian Constitution and Brazilian law. .
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Correction (September 2, 2022): An earlier version of this article erroneously quoted Ariel Bentes, Communications Officer for Indigenous Brazilian Articulation (APIB). This quote was actually from Dinamam Tuxá, the APIB executive his coordinator. The post is now fixed.