Ignoring a decision taken by the Brazilian National Commission for the Indigenous Policy (CNPI) Brazil's House of Representatives established a Committee to analyze bills dealing with the exploitation of mineral resources in indigenous lands.
The CNPI together with indigenous and indigenist organizations and the Federal Government had agreed that this issue would be discussed as part of the debates on the Statute of Indigenous Peoples, which has been discussed in Congress for 13 years without any practical results so far.
In a note published on November 7 on the current situation of the struggle for indigenous rights, Cimi. the Indianist Missionary Council, a organ linked to the Brazilian catholic church, considered that establishing the Committee was an example of actions taken by congressmen who are against indigenous people.
"This decision shows that Congress caved in to the pressure of mining companies and disrespected indigenous peoples," stressed Saulo Feitosa, Cimi's deputy secretary and a member of CNPI.
The indigenous movement does not agree with discussing this issue separately. The mineral exploitation issue should be discussed taking into account the current situation of indigenous peoples in the areas of health, education, environment, food security, and others.
Therefore, they want mining activities to be regulated through the Statute of Indigenous Peoples, which deals with all aspects of indigenous peoples' life.
Representative Edio Lopes (Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement – state of Roraima) will be the chair of the special committee; Representative Bel Mesquita (Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement – state of Pará) will be the vice-chair; and Representative Eduardo Valverde (Workers' Party – state of Rondônia) will be the rapporteur. All of them support the government in Congress.
The 1988 Federal Constitution allowed national capital companies to carry out mineral exploitation in indigenous lands. For this purpose, a law regulating mining activities must be passed defining who will be allowed to engage in such exploitation, how the activity will be carried out, how indigenous people will be compensated for damages caused by it, and how they will be consulted in order to allow the exploitation or not.
Because it was prohibited, no company is carrying out mining activities in indigenous lands. But clandestine mining sites do exist, as a result of the State's inability to play its role of inspecting and protecting indigenous lands from invaders.
Some indigenous peoples have already stood up against mining activities in their lands, such as the Yanomami people. In June, Yanomami teachers wrote a letter to the President of the Republic stressing that, with the establishment of mining companies, "there will be deforestation, rivers will be polluted, game will become scarce. Therefore, diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhea and pneumonia will increase."
The document also points out the fact that "there will be more violence, prostitution and consumption of alcoholic beverages, as has already happened in our land in the past." In the 1980s, the presence of miners infected with diseases increased the mortality of indigenous people.
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