IBAMA refutes issuance of potash exploration permit

VINICIUS SASSINE / MANAUS, AM (FOLHAPRESS) – IBAMA (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) refused three times, in four months, to conduct the authorization process for the exploration of potash in the Amazon, a company in charge of Potassio do Brasil company.

The agency exonerated itself from liability twice in December 2021 and a third time in April 2022, despite the project’s impacts on indigenous lands in the Autazes (AM) region, between the Madeira and Amazon rivers.

The MPF (Federal Public Ministry) of Amazonas accuses Potássio do Brasil of co-opting natives in an attempt to secure the potash trade in the region. Following this co-option, the Federal Court has already determined that the company must return land purchased from an Aboriginal person on a traditional territory.

Potássio do Brasil is a company of the Canadian bank Forbes & Manhattan. In an attempt to secure mining exploration in the Amazon, the company applied for a license from Ipaam (Amazonas Environmental Protection Institute), the local environmental agency.

For the MPF, the previous license issued in 2015 is illegal and all licenses must be issued by Ibama.

The Mura people, directly impacted by the case, have the same understanding, according to documents from the ongoing trial in Federal Court.

The federal judge Jaiza Maria Fraxe, in charge of the public civil action, expressed in an order, in November, a position which goes in the same direction. She ordered a summons to IBAMA to participate in the process, due to MPF’s request for the agency to handle the licensing of the company.

In a note to the report, the agency said a companion law from 2011 establishes that granting licenses does not fall within its jurisdiction when the company is outside indigenous lands. IBAMA also points to a 2015 inter-ministerial decree on the performance of government agencies when there are impacts of major works on indigenous lands, which it says does not give it the power to issue licenses.

Potássio do Brasil said, in a note, that it respects the “territory of action” of Brazilian institutions and that Ipaam is the competent body for granting licenses. The project is awaiting installation license and is not on indigenous land, according to the company. Consultations with indigenous peoples are ongoing, according to the memo.

“Potassio do Brasil acquired the assets of the Autazes region in a lawful and legitimate manner, without any deception or coercion, through a negotiation process involving interested parties,” he said.

Potash exploration in the Amazon enjoys broad support within the Jair Bolsonaro (PL) government. A powerful lobby was made by representatives of Potássio do Brasil, especially inside the Palácio do Planalto.

The president defends mining on indigenous lands by companies such as Potássio do Brasil. Bolsonaro used the Russian invasion of Ukraine to try to advance the bill presented to Congress. The pretext was to reduce dependence on imported fertilizers – potassium is the basis of fertilizers used in large-scale agriculture.

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Elmer Hayward

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