Eye on the Amazon

Munduruku Victory: Anglo American Agrees to Withdraw 27 Mining Research Permits in Territories Following Sustained Pressure by Indigenous Movement

Photo credit: Cícero Pedrosa Neto / Amazônia Real

After months of pressure campaigns in solidarity with our partners, British mining company Anglo American finally responded to the demands of Indigenous peoples and took action. It withdrew 27 mining research permits which were slated to overlap Indigenous lands in Brazil, including the Munduruku territory of Sawré Muybu. These permits were a major threat to Indigenous peoples, as well as their territories and livelihoods. It's been seven months since we first told Anglo American to stay out of Munduruku territory and refrain from mining in Indigenous lands altogether. This victory resulted from our sustained campaign with the Association of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples (APIB).

Now, we need to make sure its words are converted into action. We remain vigilant to confirm the applications were removed from the official Brazilian mining database, and that no new requests are filed in these areas. Right now, mining is one of the most significant and growing threats against Indigenous peoples and their lands.

The Bolsonaro administration made opening up Indigenous land for mining and extractive industries a political priority, and even tried to co-opt Indigenous leaders' support for mining in their lands. Illegal mining activities have soared since the beginning of this year, particularly in Munduruku and Yanomami lands. Over the last few months, we've documented and challenged the violence against Indigenous peoples confronting illegal mining, as well as the impacts and destruction the industry leaves behind, such as deforestation and water contamination.

Due to the success of this campaign, we also successfully arranged a meeting between the mining company and Indigenous leaders from APIB. In a direct letter to Anglo American, APIB explained to the company why it is crucial that it publicly commit to withdrawing all the requests for mineral research that overlap with Indigenous lands. This request specifically targeted the Indigenous territory of Sawré Muybu, of the Munduruku people, in Pará state, where Anglo American had 13 mining research permits. These authorizations to research minerals in that area would deepen the impacts already felt by the Munduruku as a result of illegal logging, agribusiness, and illegal gold mining.

In May, Anglo American held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) with its shareholders, and alongside APIB and the Latin American Network on Anglo American, we made sure to send the message that Indigenous territories in the Amazon are to be protected, not exploited.

During the AGM, Anglo American told its investors that they "have not undertaken any activity" and "nor is any activity intended" in the Sawré Muybu land. It was the first time that the company made a public statement regarding its intentions in the area, and now one for whih they can be held accountable.

On May 24, we received confirmation from Anglo American that, after reviewing the 27 research permits that Amazon Watch and APIB brought to its attention as the most critica, it decided to withdraw all of them. Then the company informed the Brazilian National Mining Agency of its decision. Besides the Sawré Muybu Indigenous territory, these research permits impacted four other territories in the states of Pará and Mato Grosso: Apiaká do Pontal e Isolados, Escondido, Kayabi and Panará.

Right after being questioned publicly during their AGM about plans to mine inside or in the proximity of Indigenous territories in the Amazon, Anglo American confirmed its withdrawal from the permits we pointed out as problematic. Our pressure worked. While it is a great victory, we will not let up on this strategy to ensure large-scale mining, including by Anglo American, stops hiding behind weak regulation and licensing, and instead actively respects Indigenous peoples' rights, especially the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC).

There is still a lot to be done to ensure that Indigenous territories, especially in the Amazon, are protected against mining exploitation. With the threat of bill 191/2020 – which opens up Indigenous lands for mining, among other activities – ever glooming, and Bolsonaro's new allies in Congress vowing to put it to a vote as soon as possible, we continue to call on Anglo American to take a stance that in line with its stated principles and to live up to its own so-called "responsible miner" standard.

Dinamam Tuxá, from the Executive Coordination of APIB and a leader in this campaign, shared, "We continue to monitor and pressure Anglo American to commit to environmental protection, and particularly to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, as defined by international treaties and agreements. As Indigenous peoples, we understand our responsibility to protect and preserve the forest, but this is a shared responsibility. Consumers and businesses alike have socio-environmental obligations and Anglo American cannot escape its responsibility to all of humanity," he stressed.

This win is the result of the resistance and joint work between Munduruku leaders, our partners at APIB, and our allies – we are all counting on your continued support and solidarity! Together, we will maintain the pressure not just on Anglo American, but the entire mining sector. In this way the industry will be forced to cease harmful practices such as mining in Indigenous lands, which can have a great toll on livelihoods, biodiversity, and the protection of the Amazon rainforest. We are united for an Amazonia free of mining on all Indigenous territories!

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