Brazil Does About Turn And Stops Mining In Protected Reserve And Drilling On Amazon Reef

The rich rainforest reserve is also home to indigenous groups who will be affected by any mining in the forest. guentermanaus/Shutterstock

In excellent news for conservationists, the plans announced by the Brazilian government to strip a vast Amazon reserve of its protection to allow for mining has been nipped in the bud as the courts have blocked the move. Not only has huge tracts of rainforest been saved – for now at least – but so has the immense coral reef only recently discovered at the mouth of the Amazon, as a bid for oil drilling in the reef has also been rejected.  

There was a huge backlash to the decision by Brazilian President Michel Temer to allow companies to start exploring the massive National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca), which covers an area larger than Denmark. The rainforest within the protected area supports a wealth of wildlife, as well as being the home of indigenous peoples. But it was what this forest sat upon that interested Temer, who issued a presidential decree in order to open the park up to industry.

However, there was fierce opposition from some senators, with one calling it “the biggest attack on the Amazon in the last 50 years”. In response to this, a federal court in Brasilia has blocked the action by the President, saying in a statement that it was suspending “possible administrative acts based on the decree”.

The reef had been hiding in the mouth of the Amazon, where no one had thought to look for coral. © Greenpeace

In a possible first for wildlife conservation, the good news doesn’t end there. Back in 2016, researchers announced that they had discovered a vast new reef stretching for almost 1,000 kilometers at the mouth of the Amazon River. But in almost the same breath, they also warned that the deep sea reef, one of the most specular discoveries in recent times, was predictably under threat from oil exploration.

The coral sits upon what is thought to be vast reserves of oil, and the French company Total wanted a slice of it. But their bid to start drilling near the mouth of the Amazon has been rejected by the Brazil’s environmental regulator IBAMA, who said that the company failed to provide enough information about the impacts the drilling would have on the reef.

“Oil dispersion modelling, for example, leaves no doubt about the potential impacts on the coral reef and marine biodiversity more broadly,” the president of IBAMA, Suely Araújo, said in a statement.

So, for now at least, both reef and rainforest have a stay of execution. The balance between economic development for Brazil and protection of their astonishing array of natural resources is a fine thing, but for the time being it seems that conservation and the environment have come out on top.

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