Canadian Mining Project Seeks License Despite Environmental Irregularities
Global organizations mobilize to oppose Belo Sun mining activities in Brazilian Amazon
Amazon Watch, International Rivers, Instituto Socioambiental
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | October 10, 2013
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Brasilia, Brazil – A broad group of organizations from Brazil, Canada, the United States and Europe joined a campaign in defense of indigenous and traditional communities threatened by Canadian mining company Belo Sun's plans to build Brazil's largest gold mine on the banks of the Amazon's Xingu River. In a public letter signed by 44 organizations, groups called for the halt of a pending approval of Belo Sun's environmental license given the enormous threats associated with the mega-mine planned only 10 kilometers away from Brazil's controversial Belo Monte dam.
The coalition of international groups denounced Belo Sun's "Volta Grande" mining project given its proximity to the worst social and environmental impacts of Belo Monte, the world's third largest dam which is currently under construction on the Xingu River. By installing Brazil's largest gold mine in a region made increasingly precarious by the dam, Belo Sun threatens two indigenous territories with toxic chemical spills as the company plans to leave a mountain of waste materials including cyanide with a volume equivalent to twice the size of Rio de Janeiro's Sugarloaf on the banks of the Xingu as a perpetual environmental liability.
In spite of Brazil's Federal Public Prosecutors (MPF) having identified serious irregularities with the mine's Environmental Impact Assessment and corresponding licensing process while threatening a lawsuit, Belo Sun's license is nearing approval by Pará State environmental agency SEMA. In response to SEMA's intention to approve the project, members of a threatened indigenous Juruna community sent a letter to the agency stating that they have not been consulted about Belo Sun's plans and demanding that consultations take place before any license is issued.
Citing Convention 169 and the indigenous right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent in a public letter, Juruna leader Giliarde Pereira stresses that his Paquiçamba territory is only 9.5 km from the planned mine, yet his people have not been considered in the licensing process.
"Interference and socio-environmental damages are expected upon Paquiçamba indigenous territory...as is typical of mining projects around indigenous lands," the letter states.
"There was an urgent need to launch the 'Belo Sun No!' campaign together with our Brazilian and international partners because we are witnessing yet another crime unfold on the beleaguered Xingu River," said Christian Poirier of Amazon Watch. "The rubber stamp licensing process of SEMA Pará is facilitating the wholesale destruction of what's left of the Xingu's Big Bend and its peoples to the benefit of a malicious extractive industry."
In their public letter, the group of international organizations pointed out that the "Big Bend" of the Xingu River will practically dry once the Belo Monte dam diverts 80% of the river's flow into an artificial canal and reservoir. The indigenous communities that are most directly affected by the dam live on this stretch of the Xingu, which is also known for endangered endemic fish species.
"Because of the dam, indigenous peoples and riverine communities from the Xingu have already witnessed the loss of their fish, without any sign of fair compensation by the company that owns the dam. In this same context of violation of environmental standards and political cooptation, SEMA wants to authorize the installation of a mining mega-project without even performing basic necessary studies," the letter states.
A global petition is targeting the Governor of Pará State Simão Jatene, calling on him to suspend the project. Toronto based Belo Sun Mining is owned by the Canadian merchant bank Forbes and Manhattan. The company awaits its environmental license to begin its industrial operation on the Xingu while planning similar mining projects elsewhere in the Amazon, such as in the neighboring Tapajós basin.