Lobbying for the new Mining Code and cooptation of indigenous communities along Rio Negro, Amazonas, Brazil

Mining activities in the Amazonian Rio Negro region seem to undergo a revival as companies have developed strategies to increase access to minerals and a powerful lobby is pushing forward the regularization of commercial mining in indigenous territories.


The area of the Upper Rio Negro and the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, located in the very Northwest of Brazil and in the middle of the Amazon, have recently become the focal point of contentious debates on the compatibility of mining, sustainability and indigenous rights. While the pro-mining lobby is pushing forward mining activities and their regularization in protected indigenous territories, the claimed consensus seems only an ostensible one as in particular indigenous rights organizations and the destructive historical experience with mining in the region give rise to misgivings.

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Basic Data
NameLobbying for the new Mining Code and cooptation of indigenous communities along Rio Negro, Amazonas, Brazil
SiteSão Gabriel da Cachoeira and wider sourrounding area
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
Tailings from mines
Specific CommoditiesDiamonds
Niobium; Tantalite
Project Details and Actors
Project Area (in hectares)100,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationunknown
Start Date01/07/1982
Company Names or State EnterprisesCosigo Resources Inc. from Canada - Mining exploration project since 2011 in three villages in Sao Gabriel
Paranapanema from Brazil - Mining in the 1980s
GoldAmazon from Brazil - Mining in the 1980s; currently approaching communities
Relevant government actorsBrazilian Federal Government, National Congress, Governments of Amazonas and São Gabriel da Cachoeira, National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM), National Indian Foundation, Secretaria Estadual para os Povos Indígenas (SEIND) do estado do Amazonas
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNational Committee to Defend Territories - http://emdefesadosterritorios.org/

Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI) - https://www.cimi.org.br

Coordination Board of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COAIB)

Survival International - https://www.survivalinternational.org

Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB) - apib.info

Federação das Organizações Indígenas do Rio Negro (FOIRN) - www.foirn.org.br

Associação das Comunidades Indígenas do Rio Aiari (ACIRA)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingArtisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Environmental ImpactsPotential: 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, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Noise pollution, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Infectious diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesThere are proposal for cooperative mining models in which indigenous communities have full control over the process and minerals would be extracted without the interference of large companies. This would base on knowledge from the 1980s and 1990s where indigenous communities have already carried out mining activities based on artisanal forms of extraction with lower environmental impacts. Proponents argue that this would provide the communities a needed income source and at the same time take into account the relationship with nature.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.While after the gold rush in the 1980s the Amazonian indigenous movement has achieved the recognition of greater social and cultural rights which can also be regarded as a success for environmental justice, the reality today shows a different story: Some communities became recently divided or target of cooptation, and voices opposing the regularization of mining in indigenous territories remain marginalized and have difficulties entering public debate.
Sources and Materials

Brazilian Constitution 1988
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Projeto Lei 1610/1996
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Projeto Lei 5807/2013
[click to view]

ILO C169 - Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention
[click to view]


18. 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 toTraditional Lands.

9. Taylor, K. (1986): Steamrolling Development. Civilian Government Fails to Protect Amazon Indians. The Multinational Monitor, Vol 7, Number 10 – Indigenous Peoples: The Struggle for Land and Equality.

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

10. Survival International (1986): Gold War in Amazonia. Survival International News, No. 12, 1986.


24. CIMI (2011): Sobre projetos de extrativismo mineral em Terras Indígenas do Amazonas. Nota Pública, 19 September, 2011.
[click to view]

11. Maisonnave, F. (2018): Assessor de Temer tenta explorar minério raro em terra indígena. Folha de S.Paulo, 24 June, 2018.
[click to view]

3. Petrof, D. (2015): Nióbio, a solução do Brasil!!! DM.com.br, 26 June, 2015.
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14. Farias, E. (2011): Foirn se opõe a inventário mineral em terras indígenas sem discussão. Portal Povos Indígenas no Brasil, 1 August, 2011.
[click to view]

4. Caldas, O. (2016): Nióbio do Amazonas não pode ser explorado comercialmente. 9 September, 2016.
[click to view]

16. Aljazeera (2017): Brazil court suspends mining on Amazon's Renca reserve. 30 August, 2017.
[click to view]

23. Martins, H. (2018): MPF pede cancelamento de projetos minerais em terra indígena no Amazonas. Portal Amazonas Atual, 11 June, 2018.
[click to view]

6. Lucchesi, C.; Cuadros, A. (2013): Nióbio faz dos Moreira Salles a família mais rica do Brasil. Exame, 13 March, 2013.
[click to view]

25. Farias, E. (2013): Indígena do Alto Rio Negro defende mineração extrativista. Portal Amazônia Real. 4 November, 2013.
[click to view]

17. Ventura, M; Carneiro, L. (2017): Exploração mineral na Amazônia pode levar a disputas judiciais. O Globo, 23 August, 2017.
[click to view]

22. Zelic, J. (2017): Indígenas do Médio Rio Negro expulsam garimpeiros de terra demarcada. Portal FNEEI, 13 September, 2017.
[click to view]

12. Peres, S. (2003): Cultura, política e identidade na Amazônia: o associativismo indígena no Baixo Rio Negro. Dissertation, Universidade Estadual de Campinas.
[click to view]

5. Alvarenga, D. (2013): 'Monopólio' brasileiro do nióbio gera cobiça mundial, controvérsia e mitos. G1, 9 April, 2013.
[click to view]

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

8. ISA (2016): Pretensões Minerárias na Amazônia Legal. Terras Indígenas no Brasil
[click to view]

1. Brasil, K. (2007): Exploração de minérios divide índios no AM. Folha de São Paulo, 2 July, 2007.
[click to view]

19. Fellet, J. (2017): Após fim de reserva, grupo amplia lobby por mineração em áreas indígenas. Article at BBC Brasil (online) from 20 August, 2017.
[click to view]

21. A Crítica (2015): Exploração de minério em terras indígenas volta a ser debatida e traz nova polêmica. 16 May, 2015.
[click to view]

2. Barcelos b. Cruz, N. (2015): Exploração ilegal de minério ganha dimensões preocupantes. A Critica, 20 June, 2015.
[click to view]

15. ISA (2016): UCs e TIs na Amazônia são afetadas por mais de 17,5 mil processos de mineração. ISA Blog de Monitoramento, 29 January, 2016.
[click to view]

20. Amazônia (2017): População indígena protesta contra mineração em São Gabriel da Cachoeira (AM). Portal Amazônia, 2 December, 2017.
[click to view]

Other Documents

The world's largest niobium deposit: Morro dos Seis Lagos
[click to view]

Indigenous protest against mining lobby and for education
[click to view]

Tucano community during a discussion
[click to view]

Niobium which is primarily mined in Brazil is becoming of high political and economic interest
[click to view]

Target of Gold Amazon: a village on the Içana river
[click to view]

The Rio Negro region and its indigenous territories
[click to view]

Professor Jane Baré with a statement against mining in indigenous territories
[click to view]

São Gabriel da Cachoeira, 2017: Indigenous academics in protest against mining lobby
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorMax Stoisser
Last update06/11/2018