The Chief Minister of Brazil’s Institutional Security Cabinet of the Presidency, Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, has overturned his own orders after being criticized for granting mining exploration permits in a protected area of the Amazon, near the border with Colombia and Venezuela.
The cancellation of the seven permits granted by Ribeiro, a close ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, was published this week in the official gazette Diário Oficial.
In the new decree, the minister acknowledges that the authorizations he granted were questioned by the three government agencies, namely the National Mining Agency (ANM), the Indigenous National Foundation (Funai) and the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio).
The decision was also condemned by NGOs and First nations groups such as the Federation of Indigenous Organizations of Río Negro.
The seven authorizations he had granted allowed mining companies to explore for gold in a number of sites which, together, total 12,700 hectares in the Cabeça do Cachorro region, a well-preserved forest area in the northern Amazonas state. Besides being very close to the border with neighbouring countries, the municipality that hosts Cabeça do Cachorro is home to two dozen Indigenous tribes and several nature reserves and is very close to the Pico da Neblina National Park.
According to local media, the Attorney General’s office has opened an investigation to analyze the legality of the authorizations granted by Ribeiro.
Brazil’s Socialism and Liberty Party also sent a letter to the Attorney’s office requesting for such an investigation be carried out in a timely manner, as Ribeiro has granted 81 mining exploration permits applicable to different areas of the Amazon since 2019. Out of the total, 45 permits were granted in 2021, the largest approval rate since 2013.