Controversial Brazilian Mining Bill Moves Closer To Law

January 4, 2020

A controversial plan introduced by Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, that would see the country’s native reservations opened up to commercial exploitation, will soon be formally introduced to the legislature, opening the door to a potential resources boom in South America.

Relaxed Laws

The bill aims to relax laws across a whole range of industries, including farming, mining, fishing and oil exploration in order to boost the economy, and proposes a series of measures that could see the permit application process expedited and the lifting of rules against mining in native Amerindian reservations.

This last proposal is the most controversial, but also the most significant, as it has the potential to affect nearly all of the 428 contested projects that are currently proposed in Brazil.

Brazil is already the world’s largest producer of steelmaking ingredient iron ore, as well as the continent’s largest oil producer, but it also has extensive reserves of potash, bauxite and zinc – many deposits of which are located in the Amazon jungle in areas that are currently protected by law.

Bolsonaro himself claims that the changes would allow native Brazilians themselves to extract wealth from the resources, but it is likely to attract the interest of multinational companies who have previously found mineral extraction in Brazil a lengthy and expensive process.


The bill will now be put before Brazil’s Congress, which does not sit again until February, but is partially spurred by international condemnation of Brazil’s climate strategy and boycotts of Brazilian goods which have the potential to harm its economy.

The bill must also pass the hurdle of criticism from native and civil rights groups in Brazil, who make up about 1% of Brazil’s population but have rights to as much as 12% of its land.

Bolsonaro’s position is that native people will be able to more easily assimilate into Brazilian society if they are able to participate in the economic expansion of the country’s mineral exploitation, and that the reservations are a form of political and economic segregation, but it is thought that the main driver behind the plan is to remove barriers to a massive expansion of Brazil’s logging, farming and mining sectors.