The recent decision of the Brazilian government to open the vast area known as Renca (Reserva Nacional do Cobre e Associados) has provoked a reaction from environmental experts, including several ECOFOR researchers who have voiced their concerns in some of the most influential online information servers including BBC Brasil.
Joice Ferreira was quoted in the article which appeared in the Brazilian newspaper O Estadão which reported on the response to the government’s initiative from Brazilian celebrities such as the model Gisele Bündchen or the singer Ivete Sangalo. Joice described the government’s decision as ‘catastrophic’ as she believes that the mining will occur not only within the 30% of Renca as defined by the government, but it will also impact the surrounding protected areas.
BBC Brasil published a report on the situation entitled “A polêmica decisão de Temer de abrir uma área gigante da Amazônia à mineração” (Temer’s polemical decision to open a vast area in the Amazon to mining). The article quotes several experts with knowledge and experience of working in the Amazon including Jos Barlow and Erika Berenguer. Erika expressed her belief that the impact of the deforestation caused by logging and fires resulting from the influx of people in the area will be even greater than the pollution caused by the mining. Jos points out that despite the government’s guarantee that the mining will occur only in the designated areas, the decision will boost illegal mining, already happening in the area.
Following these two newspaper articles, the highly popular and influential blog The Conversation published a post authored by Jos, Erika, Joice, Alexander Lees and James Fraser. The article, entitled “Only local Amazonians can bring true sustainable development to their forest” puts the dispute around Renca into a broader political and socio-economic context and argues that despite the government’s promises that the mining will boost the local economy, this is very unlikely to happen – just like it did not happen in Carajás, another mining site in the Amazon which remains one of the poorest regions not only in Brazil but on the whole planet.
The reasons why mining does not bring local development are several: the mining companies are either international or based in the Southeast of Brazil and most profits going to wealthy landowners, not reaching the lower social classes. Given this situation, what are the alternatives for local development? According to the article, the real value of the Amazonian forest goes beyond immediate financial profit and includes the diversity of animal and plant species and the capacity to mitigate climate change. It is this new perspective that needs to be adopted, whilst empowering the local communities to deliver sustainable development.