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Mining in indigenous territories and the RENCA Amazon reserve, Amapá - Pará, Brazil

A broad civil society movement opposed plans for commercial mining in a large protected area in the Amazon, as part of a wider struggle against Brazil's current economic growth policies undermining of socio-environmental rights.


In 2017 Brazil’s then-president Temer, in one of several recent assaults on environmental legislation and indigenous rights, announced that the ‘National Reserve of Copper and Associates’ (RENCA), an area of more than 46,000 square kilometers in the eastern Amazon, divided between the States of Amapá and Pará, will be opened for commercial mining. This encountered an immediate international outcry and, despite being temporarily stopped by the Federal Court, mining is now on the advance as some parts of a new mining code were already rushed through in 2018, threatening not only the area of RENCA but also large parts of the Amazon and its indigenous population.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Mining in indigenous territories and the RENCA Amazon reserve, Amapá - Pará, Brazil
State or province:Pará / Amapá
Location of conflict:Oriximiná
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project details

RENCA (46,000 sq km) comprises the following protected areas: Parque Nacional Montanhas do Tumucumaque, Florestas Estaduais do Paru e do Amapá, Reserva Biológica de Maicuru, Estação Ecológica do Jari, Reserva Extrativista Rio Cajari, Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável do Rio Iratapuru; as well as the indigenous territories of Indígenas Waiãpi and Rio Paru d’Este.

Project area:4,600,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:min. 3,700 (not much data available)
Start of the conflict:21/08/2017
Company names or state enterprises:Companhia de Pesquisa de Recursos Naturais (CPRM) from Brazil - So far used to have mining research monopoly in RENCA
Vale (Vale) from Brazil
Relevant government actors:Brazilian government & MME (Ministério das Minas e Energia)
Federal Court & Public Prosecutor's Office of Amapá
National Mining Production Department & National Mining Agency
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Association of Indigenous Peoples of Wayana Aparai-Apiwa (APIWA)
Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (Apib)
Mobilização Nacional Indígena
Comitê Nacional em Defesa dos Territórios Frente à Mineração
Catholic Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network
Instituto Socioambiental
Amazon Watch
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Aparai, Wayana and Wajãpi indigenous groups
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The mobilization against the 2017 signed decree was effective and has forced the government to make a step back. In addition, a broad, diverse movement has emerged to encounter the ruralist attempts to change socio-environmental legislation. As the RENCA case and other venues of this broader struggle show, the economic elites are powerful and may circumvent such resistance by creatively interpreting constitutional law and increasingly pushing through a number of adverse legislative changes while marginalizing opposing voices.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

28. Loebens, G. (2015): Mining: a devastating threat. CIMI Report “Violence against the Indigenous Peoples in Brazil”.

29. Da Silva, L.; de Souza Filho, C. (2013): Country Report: Brazil. The Current State of Socioenvironmental Law in Brazil: The New Forest Code, Megaprojects and Threats to Traditional Lands.

2. BBC (2017): Brazil opens vast Amazon reserve to mining. 24.08.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

3. Ventura, M.; Carneiro, L. (2017): Exploração mineral na Amazônia pode levar a disputas judiciais, 24.08.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

4. Arnold, C. (2017): In the Amazon, a Catastrophic Gold Rush Looms. 18.09.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

13. Greenpeace (2017): Greenpeace denuncia garimpos ilegais na Renca. 19.09.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

7. Greenpeace (2017): Vitória! Após pressão, Temer revoga decreto que extingue a Renca. 25.09.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

8. Instituto Socioambiental (2016): Pretensões Minerárias na Amazônia Legal. Terras Indígenas no Brasil (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

23. Lang, C. (2015): Não a PEC 215! Proposed change to Brazil’s constitution would leave indigenous peoples “in the hands of the multinational corporations”., 15.07.2015. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

9. Instituto Socioambiental (2017): (Enc)Renca! 30.08.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

10. G1 Globo (2017): Extinção de reserva é "ataque à Amazônia", dizem ativistas. 25.08.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

1. Senra, R. (2017): Mineradoras canadenses souberam de extinção de reserva na Amazônia 5 meses antes do anúncio oficial. 26.08.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

5. Gonzalez, A. (2017): 'Revogar a Renca nem é o problema em si', diz ambientalista. 25.08.2017.(Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

18. Mazui, G. (2018): Temer assina decretos que modificam regras do setor de mineração. G1 Globo Online, 12.06.2018. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

15a. Jiménez, C. (2017): Povo Wajãpi, uma barreira indígena contra a mineração na Amazônia. El País Brasil, 11.09.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

19. Pacheco, J. (2018): Greenpeace avalia que decreto federal pode provocar 'corrida do ouro'. G1 Globo Online, 20.06.2018 (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

21. Girardi, G. (2018): Novo decreto de mineração reabre possibilidade de exploração da Renca. Estadão, 14.06.2018. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

22. Poirier, C. (2017): Brazil’s National Indigenous Movement: resolute in times of crisis. 05.07.2015. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

24. Branford, S.; Torres, M. (2017): Brazil 2017: environmental and indigenous rollbacks, rising violence. Mongabay, 27.12.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

27. CAIMBRN (2015): Mineração em Terra Indígena. Portal Coordenadoria das Associações Indígenas do Médio e Baixo Rio Negro (CAIMBRN), 20 August, 2015. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

25. Amazon Watch (2017): Civil Society Organizations Unite in Resistance Against Brazil's Attacks on Environmental and Indigenous Rights Protections. 10.05.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

26. Kimbrough, L. (2018): Ruralists in Brazilian congress put nation’s protected areas at risk. Mongabay, 14.08.2018. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

16. Aljazeera (2017): Brazil court suspends mining on Amazon's Renca reserve. 20.08.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

30. Instituto Socioambiental (2017): Ato reúne parlamentares e ambientalistas contra retrocessos do governo Temer. 30.08.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

20. G1 Globo (2018): MPF fala em 'disfarce' e avalia que decreto federal pode abrir exploração na Renca. 16.06.2018. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

6. Jiménez, C. (2017): Renca: Temer revoga polêmico decreto que ameaça reservas da Amazônia. El País Brasil, 26.09.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

15b. Survival International (2017): Brazil: Tribe defy miners – “Our life depends on the life of the earth and the forest”. 31.10.2017.
[click to view]

11. Sulivan, Z. (2017): Mining activity causing nearly 10 percent of Amazon deforestation. 02.11.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

14. Embury-Dennis, T. (2017): Isolated Amazon tribe vows to fight international mining companies 'until the last of us is dead'. Indepentent, 25.10.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

15c. Mendes, K. (2017): Tribal leaders worried as battle to open up the Amazon to mining rages. Reuters Online, 01.09.2017.
[click to view]

17. Martins, H. (2017): MPF pede suspensão dos efeitos do decreto que extingue Reserva Nacional do Cobre, A Critica, 29.08.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

12. Poirier,C. (2017): After Deafening Global Outcry, the Brazilian Government Retreats on Plan to Permit Mining in Massive Amazonian Reserve. Amazon Watch, 01.09.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Povo Wajãpi, uma barreira indígena contra a mineração na Amazônia | Brasil
[click to view]

Renca: A realidade do garimpo ilegal
[click to view]

New Amazon Threat? Mining Deforestation
[click to view]

Youtube Channel of Mobilização Nacional Indígena
[click to view]

Renca: Greenpeace denuncia garimpos e pistas de pousos ilegais
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Max Stoisser
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3797
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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