A Brazilian judge blocked President Michel Temer’s plan to open up a large region of the Amazon to mining on September 25. Conservation groups hailed the decision as a reversal of an attack on environmental protections.
Temer announced in August 2017 that he would be abolishing the Renca reserve, which is larger than Denmark. The reserve was founded in 1984 in order to block the mining of gold, copper, and iron ore in the region.
Temer’s action would have allowed mining within the rich biosphere found in the Renca reserve. His stated motivation for the decision was to stimulate the economy and limit the amount of illegal mining occurring in the region. Some of these illegal miners have been accused of murdering members of an uncontacted tribe earlier this month. Environmental activists have decried Temer’s pro-agribusiness leanings and called for more protection of indigenous peoples.
A nearly unanimous outcry to this decision was led by members of Congress, environmental activists, and the Catholic Church. They claim that opening the reserve would lead to deforestation and road-building that would threaten the biosphere and indigenous people living in the area. Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen’s defiant opposition to the plan sparked international debate on the issue.
Senator Randolfe Rodrigues referred to the decree as “the biggest attack on the Amazon in the last 50 years.” Meanwhile, Federal Deputy Valdir Colatto argued that the decree would guarantee development for the region as long as protections for the environment and indigenous peoples are respected.
This was yet another blow to Temer, who faces criminal corruption charges for the second time this year. The first set of charges were dismissed by lawmakers, who have the ability to decide whether or not the president should be prosecuted. The charges are for taking bribes and conspiring to buy the silence of a witness.