In a two-page feature article this weekend, the Globe and Mail reports on Toronto-based Belo Sun Ming Corp.’s plans to build Brazil’s largest gold mine, the Volta Grande open-pit gold project.
It is expected the mine could produce 167,000 ounces of gold per year for an annual revenue stream of about $200 million over the projected 21 year life of the mine. But artisanal miners, known as garimpeiros, have been working the land for more than half a century, and seventy per cent of the land Belo Sun has bought for the mine had small farmers on it.
The mine would be located just 100 metres from the Xingu River, a southern tributary of the Amazon River, about two hours from the city of Altamira. Belo Sun says it will not draw water from the river, but instead collect rainwater. It also promises to store the tailings away from the river in ponds that it says will not leach into the surrounding land or river. And they promise they will keep the cyanide out of the ecosystem. Between Altamira and the proposed Volta Grande mine is the construction site of the controversial Belo Monte dam.
The company had claimed its mine site is 12 kilometres or more from the land of the Juruna and Arara indigenous peoples, meaning it isn’t subject to the Brazilian law that says any project within 10 kilometres of designated indigenous land must conduct an impact study on how it will affect that community. While the actual distance is disputed, it is clear that indigenous people live close to the mine site and that their traditional hunting and fishing patterns will be disturbed. The company now says it will proceed with an impact study of the mine on indigenous peoples.
Amazon Watch and forty-four organizations – including the Blue Planet Project and the Council of Canadians – are part of a campaign called Belo Sun No! that is demanding the environmental licensing process be immediately suspended and placed under rigorous review.
Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be visiting Brazil this June to speak on the right to water.
The full article can be read at Canadian miner’s quest for gold meets politics in the Amazon jungle.