Canadians criticized by Bolsonaro have 149 requests for potassium exploration in the Amazon

BRAZILIA — Canadian company criticized by president Jair Bolsonaro, this Wednesday, the 2nd, refers to plans to explore for potassium in Brazil, concentrating no less than 149 active requests for mineral exploration in several municipalities in Pará and Amazonas. data from National Mining Agency (ANM) show that Potassium from Brazilcontrolled by Canadian investment bank Forbes & Manhattan, awaits the conclusion of the environmental process of dozens of projects to effectively commence exploration in the country.

In a 2016 video posted by Bolsonaro on social media, when he was a federal representative, the president criticized that mining rights in the area “are in the hands of Canadian companies” and said that this exploration would be “arranged through Petrobras, God knows how”. Bolsonaro gave no details about his statement. “In other words, we can’t exploit our own potassium,” he concluded, in the video.

In the tape, Bolsonaro criticizes the dependence on agribusiness inputs imported from Russia and that Brazil needs to look for its local production, but Canada’s performance is one of the “problems” that must be resolved.

The fact is, with Bolsonaro already in the presidency, the company has not only continued the longer process, but also submitted eight new exploration requests since January 2019, targeting exploration areas in cities such as Autazes, Itacoatiara and São Sebastião do Uatumã, in the Amazon.

Canadian investment bank Forbes & Manhattan is also behind the Belo Sun mining project, which intends to implement an industrial gold exploration project at Pará, in the Belo Monte hydroelectric region. In recent years, as revealed by Stadiumthe company regularly acquires a series of lands for agrarian reform in the region, to make room for its exploitation.

In February, a report by Agência Pública revealed that, despite Bolsonaro’s past criticism of Canadian operations in the region, his government had acted directly in the mining process with Forbes & Manhattan banks to expedite the project’s release. That support included members of the Armed Forces in the Executive and even reached Republican vice president and retired Army general Hamilton Mourão (PRTB), who met in Brasília to discuss the issue.

In a note, Potássio do Brasil confirmed that there is currently no effective exploration of potassium underway in the Amazon. According to the company, only one project in the area – the so-called “Brazilian Potassium Project”, located in the municipality of Autazes, 111 km from Manaus, has obtained an initial environmental permit, but this was “suspended due to an agreement with the Federal Court”. Public with Mura people living in an area 8 km from the future Potássio do Brasil facility in Autazes”.

According to the company, “there are no forecasts for starting potassium mine exploration”. Although Canadian funding and the origin of the project are linked to the Forbes & Manhattan banks, Potássio do Brasil states that “it is a Brazilian company and in its project to capture potash in Autazes, strict environmental standards were considered, without the use of dams.”

The company states that it is “committed to bringing the company to Autazes with the most modern technology, without forgetting to care for people and the environment”.

“Potassio’s principles are to respect environmental standards and the rights of indigenous and traditional peoples and recognize the importance of Prior, Free and Informed Consultation from the Mura. One of the company’s values ​​is dialogue with the community in a responsible, transparent and participatory manner, aimed at the socio-environmental and economic progress of Autaze and the region.”

Other projects are still waiting for the completion of the environmental permit process to be carried out. Despite all of the federal government’s involvement with the subject, environmental authorizations do not go through IBAMAbut for a license to be issued by a state agency.

However, there is great controversy in the areas that may have an indirect impact on customary lands. Potássio do Brasil is based in Autazes. In June last year, the company informed that it had “taken decisive and very important steps” in the environmental permitting process for the “Potassio Itapiranga Project”.

It was filed with Amazon Environmental Protection Institute (Ipaam) requirements for obtaining initial permits for the project, for the production of potash fertilizers in the municipality 226 km from Manaus. Estimates are to produce about 2 million tonnes of potash fertilizer per year.

In 2020, the company claims that more than US$190 million has been invested in its discovery and development projects in Brazil and another US$2 billion will be invested at the end of the construction of its operations. The country buys about 85% of the volume of fertilizer used annually for crops abroad. Russia is one of the main exporters of inputs to Brazil and, in January, accounted for 30.1% of fertilizer entering the national territory, according to information from the Ministry of Economy. For 12 months last year, Russia was responsible for 23.3% of all fertilizer that went into Brazil.

Brazil’s trade relations with Russia are largely focused on purchasing fertilizers. Of the US$5.7 billion of Brazil’s imports from Russia in 2021, US$3.5 billion – or 62% of the total – relates to purchases of inputs used in agribusiness. This result from last year was 97% higher than that recorded in 2020, when Brazil spent US$1.75 billion on imports of this product.

Jackson Wintringham

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