Globe and Mail – Gold mine case bolsters Indigenous rights in Brazil. By Stephanie Nolen.
A Brazilian appeals court has upheld the suspension of a key licence for Toronto-based Belo Sun Mining Corp., which hopes to build Brazil’s largest open-pit gold mine in the Amazon forest.
The decision sets the project back at least a year, and in their ruling, the three-judge tribunal blasted the company for failing to consult Indigenous people sufficiently. The precedent-setting ruling serves to shore up the rights of Brazil’s First Nations, rights which are, in principle, constitutionally protected, but in practice often ignored in the development of infrastructure and commercial projects.
It comes at a time when the political climate strongly favours the mining industry. The decision, delivered on Dec. 6 by the Federal Tribunal of the First Region, in Brasilia, upholds an April suspension order for the company’s installation licence.
The tribunal said that Belo Sun had failed to fulfill obligations, repeatedly made clear after previous court challenges, to study the impact of their planned 175,443-hectare open-pit mine on the Juruna people, who live approximately 10 kilometres downriver from the site of the Volta Grande project, and must do so according to a “consultation protocol” laid out by the Juruna themselves.
“This is a very important decision, not just for Belo Sun â€“ it tells all Brazil that Indigenous people have to be consulted on projects, public or private,” said Ubiratan Cazetta, one of the federal prosecutors who brought the case. Ian Pritchard, Belo Sun’s chief operating officer, said the company has not made a decision about whether to appeal and that their “current focus is to complete the work with the government agencies.” He added that the company would not comment on the decision, saying only that “the Para government and local municipalities have been very supportive of our company and the Volta Grande Project.”