Brazil Wants Its Share of Indian Riches

The Brazilian government wants mining to cease on Indian lands. For this purpose, it set up an operational group which has 15 days to submit proposals to monitor and ensure the adoption of adequate and suitable measures to prevent all forms of mining on Indian lands.


By Luciana Vasconcelos

The group should especially examine mining within the territories of the Roosevelt, Serra Morena, and Apiruanã reservations and the Aripuanã Indian Park, all located in the states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso.


The group is made up of three representatives of the Ministry of Justice – one from the Federal Police, one from the Federal Highway Police, and one from the National Indian Foundation (Funai) -, and one each from the Presidential Office of Institutional Security, the Ministry of Defense, and the National Department of Mineral Production, linked to the Ministry of Mines and Energy.


A conflict between Cinta-Larga Indians, from the Roosevelt reservation, and prospectors early in April caused 29 deaths in the region, in Rondônia.


The reservation, which is 580 kilometers from the state capital, Porto Velho, contains one of the world’s largest diamond reserves. Luiz Paulo Barreto, Executive Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, informed that mining on reservations is prohibited.


According to the Secretary, the reservation is protected today by 20 Federal Police officers, 20 Federal Highway Police officers, and 10 military police officers from Rondônia.


Barreto affirmed that, if necessary, the detail could be reinforced, and the Armed Forces could also be called upon to guarantee security in the locale.


The Roosevelt reservation is currently the object of illegal mining activities by local prospectors and even the Indians themselves.


“This reservation lies within an Indian village and is the object of general plunder,” Barreto observed.


“The information we have is that diamonds worth many millions of dollars have left this region and gone directly into the hands of international smugglers,” he pointed out.


The Secretary also informed that approximately US$ 1 million were allocated for the Funai to implant projects in the region, to enable the Indians to manage without having to extract diamonds.


He said that the lands are closed to mining, pending the approval of a project to regulate mineral extraction on Indian lands. There is currently a bill before the National Congress to regulate mineral extraction in these areas.


“What is essential is to regulate [these activities] in an intelligent manner, safeguarding the Indians’ interest, patrimony, and culture; providing for environmental restoration; and determining that the Union will be the biggest recipient of benefits from the subsoil,” he underscored.


According to Barreto, the regulations state that the Indians will be consulted about mining on their lands. With permission from the Indians, the Ministry of Justice will send the National Congress specific authorization requests for each mineral deposit.


If the Congress assents, the government can call for bids. The winning firm will be expected to pay the government royalties for quarrying the diamonds, take responsibility for restoring the environment, and establish a fund for the Indians.


Agência Brasil
Translator: David Silberstein

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