Indigenous lands’ environmental integrity, areas of utmost relevance for climate stability and the protection of the country’s cultural diversity, may be at risk if the Chamber of Deputies approves, without further discussion and substantial improvements, Bill (PL) 191/2020, which allows the mining of mineral resources, the construction of hydroelectric dams, and industrial agriculture on those territories.
The Bill was brought up again last week and may have an urgency request for its voting approval at any moment, without going through the proper analysis of competent commissions. The possibility of an urgent voting procedure is being used under the misguided argument that mining on indigenous lands would overcome the shortage of fertilizers, especially potassium, coming from Russia in the wake of the war between that country and Ukraine.
Mining on indigenous lands does not solve the fertilizer problem. According to a survey carried out by the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG in Portuguese acronym), based on data from the National Mining Agency (ANM in Portuguese acronym) and the Brazilian Geological Service, two thirds of the Brazilian reserves are outside the Amazon. Moreover, even among those located in the biome, only 11% overlap with indigenous lands. The lack of significant overlap of potash reserves and indigenous lands was also confirmed by an independent study carried out by the Brazilian Association of Mineral and Mining Research Companies.
Also, in accordance with the UFMG research, if investments are made for potassium extraction from different types of potassium salts and rocks, the country’s existing reserves could give us autonomy beyond 2100.
Furthermore, ANM has more than 500 active potash exploration processes in progress that could be made feasible without harming the original peoples’ territories.
The war between Russia and Ukraine, therefore, must not be an excuse to approve a bill that has not yet been properly discussed by society and, above all, has not been consulted with the organizations representing the indigenous peoples, the most interested parties in the matter.
The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture, a movement formed by more than 300 representatives of agribusiness, civil society, the financial sector, and the academia, advocates that Congress turn its attention to another urgent discussion – the several obstacles encountered in the country to produce fertilizers, such as legal uncertainty, the tax system, and other regulatory problems, which make imported products more competitive than domestic ones.