The area has been protected since 1984, with exploration in the area restricted to state companies. It is believed to contain gold and other minerals.
Brazil has abolished a national reserve in the Amazon, leaving the area, which is believed to contain a large gold deposit, open to commercial mining, exploration and development.
The land package, known as National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca), has been protected since 1984, with exploration in the area restricted to state companies. At 47,000 square kilometers, it is roughty the size of Denmark.
The plan to open it up was first proposed by the country’s mining ministry in March, and was made official by a presidential decree published on Wednesday (August 23). About two-thirds of the area remains subject to protection, leaving 31 percent available to miners.
The decision has been criticized by environmental groups and some politicians. Opposition Senator Randolfe Rodrigues has already proposed a bill to halt mining in the region, and has said he is considering filing a lawsuit in court.
Supporters include Fernando Coelho, Brazil’s mining and energy minister. He told Brazilian newspaper O Globo that the move could help lift the country out of a recession. Brazil’s unemployment rate is currently above 12 percent.
Pedro Garcia, a mining partner at Veirano Advogados, told the news outlet that many companies have submitted applications to the National Department of Mineral Production to search areas of the reserve, and can now challenge the cancelation of their applications in court.
Mining is an important industry in Brazil, and Garcia added that all major mining firms in the world are interested in the region. In addition to gold, which has a long history in the country, the area is thought to contain deposits of iron, manganese, nickel and tantalum.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Shaw, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.