Movement Against Belo Sun Gains Momentum in Canada | Amazon Watch
Amazon Watch

Movement Against Belo Sun Gains Momentum in Canada

With allies in power, including Environmental Minister Marina Silva and Indigenous Peoples' Minister Sonia Guajajara, what opportunities are now available to halt mining in the Amazon?

January 17, 2023 | Gabriela Sarmet | Eye on the Amazon

COP15 Biodiversity March. December 2022. Credit: Kamikia Kisedje/APIB

In our most recent successful campaigning and in-person and online actions for the Belo Sun Out campaign during the COP15 Biodiversity Conference, we gained many strategic allies in the Canadian press, government, and civil society. Now in 2023, with a newly elected government in Brazil, we have renewed hope and see a horizon of possibilities while remaining vigilant and prepared for the strategic maneuvers of the mining sector. The industry intends to advance into the Amazon rainforest, regardless of which government is in power. So we must continue our efforts against mining in the Amazon, starting with getting Belo Sun Out of the Amazon through our #ForaBeloSun corporate campaign, especially now that we have more Canadian allies!

As we’ve previously introduced, Belo Sun Mining Corp. is a Canadian gold mining company. The company’s primary project, the Volta Grande Project (VGP), is currently under development in the Volta Grande do Xingu, or Xingu River’s Big Bend. The Big Bend is a region in Brazil’s Pará state that comprises the lands located in the curve of the Xingu River within the Amazon rainforest. If built, the project would be the largest open-pit gold mine in Brazilian history, threatening the already fragile Amazonian ecosystem that local communities rely on for their lives and livelihoods.

In the lead-up to COP15, we launched The Risks of Investing in Belo Sun, a new report exposing the Canadian company’s threats to the already fragile Xingu River Basin, one of the areas with the greatest biodiversity on Earth. The project could have devastating effects on surrounding Indigenous and campesino communities and climate stability in the Amazon region and the entire planet. 

The deregulation of the mining sector and the promotion of a Brazilian “safe harbor” for mining investors were the main legacies of the Bolsonaro government, and this is the scenario left for the Lula administration. Coordinated during the last four years by the former government, now defeated by popular vote, the Mining and Energy Market Initiative – a dangerous package of policies promoting mining that loosen regulations while creating new funds on the São Paulo Stock Exchange to facilitate fundraising by mining companies – is now in the Lula administration’s hands. The initiative mirrors ethically questionable deregulation lobbied by the Brazilian agribusiness sector and echoes the mining regulation model adopted in Canada, where the industry has securities and assets in the Stock Exchange that have spurred increased speculation by investors. Some of the biggest challenges of Lula’s new term will be to ensure that the Brazilian government fully respects and prioritizes environmental legislation and the rights of communities affected or potentially affected by mining operations over profits for a few investors.

Faced with this scenario, Amazon Watch underlines the importance of continuing our collective efforts to closely monitor all actions of Canadian mining companies operating in the Amazon. To this end, we are working on different fronts with our Canadian allies to demystify the Canadian mining model and its false rhetoric of sustainability by exposing its limitations and contradictions. Brazil has much to learn from a country deeply traumatized by mining violence like Canada, especially by listening to its First Nations and communities affected by these extractive operations. 

The former executive coordinator of our long-time partner the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB), Sonia Guajajara, is now heading the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, presenting us with more opportunities to contribute to Indigenous policies in Brazil and internationally. We are also confident that the learnings and exchanges APIB shared with First Nations in Canada, which began at COP15, can materialize into long-term collaboration and real policy changes. This is yet another example of how all the support given to our campaigns has been essential in creating the conditions necessary for the structural transformations we want to see in the Amazon. We are seizing opportunities and following through with new partnerships!

With Marina Silva as the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change, we now want to emphasize the other goal of our campaign against Canadian mining in the Amazon. Beyond highlighting mining’s clear association with threats to biodiversity loss, our campaign also aims to expose the connections of this predatory extraction with the climate emergency. By denouncing the changes in the ecological balance of all territories where mining advances, whether in landscape change, contamination, or deforestation, our work aims to impact the actions and political positions of this new Brazilian Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. 

We count on the positive energy and mobilization of our supporters so that, together with our partners on the ground in Canada and our allies in the new Brazilian government, we can evaluate and expose the climatic risks of destroying an ecosystem as critical as that of the Volta Grande do Xingu, still threatened by Canadian mining company Belo Sun. Although Belo Sun’s license remains suspended, new reports of threats and rights violations against local residents continue to surface frequently. We will need your support to continue to make this project unfeasible and unprofitable until Belo Sun is finally OUT!

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Amazon Watch is building on more than 25 years of radical and effective solidarity with Indigenous peoples across the Amazon Basin.



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