The Amazon region comprehends a unique cultural and ecological heritage and the effects of mining can reach far beyond the already gigantic 47,000 square kilometers delivered over to private enterprise.
On Wednesday, August 23, 2017, the Brazilian federal government signed a decree that abolishes the RENCA – the Portuguese acronym for the National Reserve of Copper and Associates – and allows a gigantic area of 47,000 square kilometers (18,000 square miles) in the Amazon, between the states of Pará and Amapá, to be exploited by private mining companies.
The decree not only lacks the debate that should take into account the knowledge produced by environmental and social studies and but also neglects indigenous and traditional peoples who must be directly affected.
Together, inserted, connected, co-integrated and co-evolved with the forests and their natural processes, there are approximately 150 indigenous peoples and dozens of caboclo and riverside communities. The coexistence among indigenous peoples and the forest has been going on for centuries. Nowadays it is already known that the forest was molded together with these peoples, as an example, the distribution of the trees and the composition of the soil is the result of these civilizations’ cohexistance and the natural environment.
The consequences of Amazonian degradation are, in many cases, irreversible and planetary, since the ecology of these areas may be related to global scale processes. Some areas have very delicate balance and little dynamic, and may shelter forests of millennial trees, a small disturbance in these environments may mean the break of an equilibrium achieved over centuries and result in the death of this unique forest.
The “ex-RENCA area”, larger than the State of Rio de Janeiro (43,696 km²) and Denmark (42,931 km²) includes stretches of the Amazon that still lack studies, mainly regarding the ecology of these forests. The dimensions of the actual damage caused by the exploitation of these areas can be lost and hidden, but the effects will surely be felt and will extend far beyond those already massive 47,000 km².