Created in 1970, still during the military regime, the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra) is a federal autarky whose priority mission is to implement agrarian reform and carry out national land planning. However, in Senador José Porfírio, Pará, this role is set aside to support gold exploration on 2,430 hectares of land designated for the settlement of farming families. They were turned over by the agency to Canadian mining company Belo Sun, whose project has been the subject of at least seven lawsuits alleging irregularities in its environmental licensing.
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“What we identified was that Incra never played a role defending settlements and agrarian reform, it seems that we have acted a lot in this case as if it were a private person”, observes regional defender of Human Rights in Pará, Elisângela Machado Côrtes, author of the order against Belo Sun after allegations that the company threatened farming families in the Volta Grande do Xingu region, in the heart of the Amazon.
“Belo Sun has organized armed security in the area and we have received several reports that this armed security has persecuted and threatened residents, saying that the project will continue. So people are very scared, especially after this armed security is stationed there”, the defense said. Prior to signing with Incra, Belo Sun had irregularly acquired public land in the area, buying directly from settlers – which was a crime. This practice was the subject of another lawsuit, filed by the Pará State Public Defender’s Office.
According to Bia Albuquerque’s public defender, Belo Sun purchased three areas of federal public land, totaling 1,734 hectares, Bia mentions, among other things, Villa Ressaca – which is located next to the Ressaca residential project, which has 1,439 hectares reserved by Incra for the project.
“How can Incra accept this and never censor Belo Sun’s behavior, it just accepts this purchase and then it’s as if Belo Sun is still awarded with signing the contract”, criticized Elisângela. On its website, Belo Sun states that it has authorization to explore 160,000 hectares in the area and that preliminary exploration work has identified “many gold emerging and possible future growth targets to be drilled and explored systematically”.
In documentation submitted in the environmental permitting process, the company claims that gold exploration at Volta Grande do Xingu will impact a smaller area of 1,400 hectares – leading to the opening of a public civil action by the Office of the Public Defender. Countries in the face of the project size is too small. “There is a cut only in the proposed installation area of physical equipment and structures and therefore there is a reduction in the area because when conducting environmental impact studies, the installation area of the company’s rural properties needs to be taken into account, not from clippings”, complements Bia Albuquerque.
Disdainfully, DPE points out that the indigenous peoples surrounding the ressaca settlement project were excluded from the environmental impact study, including the Juruna indigenous people and the Xipaya ethnic group who depend on public services such as the puskesmas and schools located in the project installation. area. The lawsuit filed by DPE also points to irregularities in the Belo Sun Rural Environmental Records, as the area declared by the company overlaps with this community. Based on these allegations, the agency even obtained an order in favor of suspending the project’s installation permit, which the company overturned in the second case.
However, another lawsuit filed by the Federal Ministry of Public Affairs puts Belo Sun’s current plans on hold. He questioned the lack of an indigenous component in environmental impact studies and the failure to comply with Convention 69 of the International Labor Organization, signed by Brazil, and demanded that, in this case, free, prior and informed consultation of the affected traditional communities. by the work to be done. The decision of the Federal Court in Altamira is that the license remains suspended until the company carries out this consultation.
Area already affected
Amazon Watch’s legal adviser, Ana Carolina Alfinito, highlighted that the Volta Grande do Xingu region is an area already facing the environmental impacts of another major project, the Belo Monte dam. The installation of hydroelectric power stations, environmentalists explain, has reduced the flow of the Xingu River and its tributaries, at the expense of the fauna, flora and extractive activities of the traditional communities that depend on this hydrographic basin.
“We need to wait at least a few years to see what the impact is and what supports this environment without collapsing because it has already collapsed”, warns Ana. Ironic or not, Belo Monte’s impact on the Xingu stream makes mining in the region even more convenient. “For those who want to mine gold, mine ore, it should be drier. This lowers the water level and the ore becomes more accessible, you have to drain less soil and groundwater to access this ore,” explains Amazon Watch legal counsel.
In his judgment, mining progress has gained strength in the Amazon, driven in part by agreements such as those with Incra and other federal agencies. “The orders are clear: leave these lands to intensive international industrial extractivism. That’s the order. His orders were not to defend agrarian reform, to represent the settlers, to think about social development in the countryside. It’s the opposite”, activists denounce, pointing out that, although the Volta Grande do Xingu project has been around since the early 2000s, its “speed, aggressiveness, and absolute authoritarian character that has developed in recent years” is something new. .
“We have Incra and Funai working from the top down in a way that goes against the interests of the people these agencies have to strengthen and the federal government is fully committed to and aligned with the various extractive sectors,” Ana said, citing Project Law 191 , written by the executive, permits mining on customary lands and the inclusion of the Belo Sun project in its Policy to Support Environmental Licensing of Investment Projects for Strategic Minerals Production, called “Pro-Strategic Minerals”.
“This is a clear sign of which side this government is on when placing this project so rife with illegality, with eight lawsuits running in the courts, as a strategic priority and saying that they will try to facilitate environmental licensing. The contract with Incra and the appointment as a strategic thing within the PPI, all of this happened at the same time and that’s when we started to realize that the situation was very serious, not kidding. They still want this installation permit in this government and they will do everything to get it,” added Ana.
Wanted, INCRA confirms that its Board of Directors approved a concession contract for the use of 2,428 hectares for the company Belo Sun Mineração Ltda, signed on 11/26/2021 after the company obtained permission to install the mining project by the National Mining Agency and environmental agency. According to Incra, the use permit refers to an area that represents about 3.5% of the project and there will be no resettlement of permanent families, “because there are no agrarian reform beneficiaries in the areas that will be affected by the project”. “In the case of a ceded area in Gleba Ituna, the company must identify possible occupants and present a relocation and compensation plan,” Incra said in a note.
Belo Sun highlighted in a note that his project had an Installation License (LI) suspended by TRF1 and that the license followed all related rites. “The company is always available to the communities, entities and bodies involved in the licensing process and strengthens its commitment to the Volta Grande do Xingu region, respecting Brazilian laws at the federal, state and municipal levels,” said Belo Sun.
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