After word of a gold discovery on the Madeira River in the Brazilian Amazon in November, hundreds of gold miners flocked to the river. For over two weeks, over 400 barges floated the river about 70 miles from Manaus, the capital of the Amazonas state, before officials made moves to crack down on the illegal gold dredging (AP News).
AllRise, an environmental litigation group, submitted a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) calling for Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro to be held criminally accountable for his actions in the Amazon (AP News). The 248-page petition argues the “mass deforestation” occurring in the Amazon under his administration is harming local communities, leading to loss of life, and is detrimental to the regional and global communities.
On June 23, Brazil’s Environment Minister, Ricardo Salles, resigned. This news comes one month after the country’s Supreme Court authorized an investigation against Salles, alleging he had obstructed a federal investigation into illegal logging in the Amazon. He will be replaced by Secretary for the Amazon Joaquim Alvaro Pereira Leite (CNN).
On May 12, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies passed a bill to expedite infrastructure, mining, and agricultural projects by relaxing existing environmental regulations associated with the permitting process.
President Emmanuel Macron has been vocal this week in his opposition to the impending trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and the Mercosur trade bloc, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The French President has refused to sign the agreement on the grounds that, if ratified, it would increase soy trade between the EU and Brazil, leading to increased deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest, as land is cleared for commercial agricultural use.
On May 11, Brazil deployed 3,800 troops to protect the Amazon rainforest as deforestation surged ahead of the high season for forest fires.
Since early September, 130 tons of oil sludge have polluted Brazil’s northeastern beaches. According to a report by Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras, the oil came from a boat from Venezuela navigating close to the coast. Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Salles supported this claim, stating the oil “very probably comes from Venezuela.” The oil has now reached 61 municipalities in nine Brazilian states, contaminating 130 beaches. Authorities say the oil has already killed ten turtles, and environmental experts fear the oil will continue to damage coral and marine life.
On October 3, the Brazilian government announced plans to present a bill later this month that would allow building of mines on indigenous lands. The bill would also look to legalize independent mines that are currently operating illegally. This past July, the Ministry of Mines and Energy announced the creation of a working group to simplify the mining process. Critics of conservative President Jair Bolsonaro’s mining policies have stated that opening indigenous lands for mining, logging, and farming helped fuel this year’s Amazon fires.
On August 22, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro conceded that the record number of fires raging in the Amazon may be due to farmers illegally setting fires, but told foreign powers not to interfere with Brazil’s sovereignty. Government figures indicate that fires in the Amazon have risen 83% compared to the same period last year. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed concern over the fires on Twitter, calling them an “international crisis” that should be discussed at the upcoming G7 summit.