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Brazil under fire over Amazon forest mining decree

Brazil's government is scrambling to respond to public outcry after it dismantled a vast national reserve in the Amazon to open up the area to mining.

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Brazil under fire over Amazon forest mining decree

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Brazil’s government is scrambling to respond to public outcry after it dismantled a vast national reserve in the Amazon to open up the area to mining.

The National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca) banned mining in roughly 46,000 square km of Amazon rainforest, an area larger than Denmark. It was set up in 1984 by the then military government to reserve its mineral resources for future extraction rather to protect the forest.

The area, which straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para, is thought to have significant reserves of copper, gold, iron ore and other minerals.

The government says allowing and regulating mining there would stamp out illegal operations destroying the forest.

It insists that protected areas and indigenous land – which account for nearly 70 percent of the Renca area in Amapa state – will not be affected, and it has now promised a new decree spelling out these protections.

Mining and Energy Minister Fernando Coelho Filho said on Monday the government would rescind its prior decree and issue a new one that still abolishes the mineral reserve but specifies existing protections for parts of the area that will remain in place.

The prospect of a gold rush in this fragile area has sparked overwhelming criticism from lawmakers and environmentalists alike. Even supermodel Gisele Bundchen has accused the government of “auctioning” the Amazon.