September 20, 2019
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Brazilian gov't mining policy threatens Amazon, indigenous leader says

By Maria Angelica Troncoso

Fortaleza, Brazil, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- Ailton Krenak, one of Brazil's most important indigenous leaders, said in an interview with EFE that the mining policies being implemented by President Jair Bolsonaro's administration legalizing artisan mining in the Amazon region, considered the lungs of the planet, are destructive.

Krenak said the exploitation of the Amazon "is being driven by the speeches of the president of the republic and his ministers, who seem to have gone mad."

"It's as if they want to destroy the natural foundation of the country," Krenak said.

The indigenous leader, a member of the Crenaque ethnicity of southeast Brazil, made that accusation on the sidelines of the 13th Ceara International Book Biennial in northeastern Brazil, a literary fair featuring fiction by indigenous and African-Brazilian peoples that will continue until Aug. 26.

According to Krenak, Bolsonaro's intention to legalize low-scale mining is just another version of what "is happening around the world and what is being promoted by the most out-of-control minds."

Mineral reserves found in the Amazon jungle are one of Bolsonaro's main points of interest. His aim, he says, is to bring "progress" to indigenous territories by inciting those communities to "exploit their land" so they will stop being seen as "prehistoric."

For Krenak - who took part in drawing up the 1988 Constitution of Brazil - the "aggressive" words of the Brazilian president seek to "hide what is really happening with the attack on the subsoil, the jungle, the water and everything else known as natural resources."

According to data gathered by the Amazon Geo-referenced Socio-environmental Information Network (Raisg) and released in December 2018, Brazil has 321 illegal mining operations distributed in 132 areas, most of them concentrated along the Tapajos River, a major tributary of the Amazon River.

The felling of trees that comes with mining in the jungle is one of the worst consequences of this invasion of nature, according to environmentalist organizations.

Among official data, the most alarming is the report by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), which, according to its monthly studies taken with an alert system, calculates that deforestation increased by 278 percent in July 2019 over the same month in 2018.

Activist and writer Krenak grew up in the Doce River basin in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, an area that has been the epicenter of two tragedies brought on by the ravages of mining exploitation inflicted by large corporations.

The most recent was the collapse of a Vale mining company dam last January that killed 248 people.

The other, considered Brazil's worst environmental catastrophe and in which 19 people died, occurred three years ago with the bursting of the Samarco mining company dam in the town of Mariana, owned by Vale and BHP Billiton.

Because of what has happened in his region, forever threatened by the collapse of new dams and by the destruction of the Amazon jungle, Krenak above all blames big mining corporations and agribusiness.

According to the indigenous leader, since those corporations are just out to make profits they will do anything to put politicians in power who allow them to do so any way they want, a problem he sees as global because it doesn't just happen in Brazil but in the whole wide world. EFE-EPA mat/cd

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