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Brazil backs off mining bid in Amazon nature reserve

The Brazilian government has pledged to reinstate a mining ban in an Amazonian nature reserve, reversing its earlier course after an international outcry. Greenpeace says several illegal mines are active in the area.

An aerial shot shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil (Kate Evans / Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR))

President Michel Temer will restore protective measures for the reserve in a decree on Tuesday, the Ministry of Mines and Energy said.

In August, Brazil's government announced a decision to allow mining in Renca, an Amazonian nature reserve that covers an area slightly larger than Denmark. The resource-rich Renca is a home to three indigenous tribes and includes a section of the world's largest rainforest.

Karte RENCA Brasilien Amazonas Naturreservat ENG

Brazilian officials argued that allowing mining would boost the local economy and allow oversight, in contrast to current wildcat mining operations. Authorities also claimed that opening the area for mining would not affect other legal measures protecting the environment and the native population.

Read more: Nature under attack in Brazil

Man standing in a dig of an illegal mine (Reuters/N. Doce )

Illegal gold mines are rife in many parts of Brazil

Widespread criticism

The proposal sparked a flurry of criticism, both from inside and outside the country.

Environmental groups such as Greenpeace criticized the bid, along with the Catholic Church, celebrities and opposition lawmakers in the parliament.

In late August, a judge also granted an injunction to block the decree.

Read more: Brazil court blocks decree to open up Amazon area to mining

While the government quickly decided to suspend and eventually reverse the decision, officials said Monday that the decision would need to be revisited after a wider debate.

Marcio Astrini, a public policy coordinator for Greenpeace Brazil, said Monday's announcement showed no leader is "absolutely immune" to pressure.

"It is a victory of society over those who want to destroy and sell our forest," he said. "Renca is just a battle. The war against the Amazon and its different peoples, promoted by Temer and big agribusiness, is still on."

dj/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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