The right-wing Bolsonaro administration has allowed MRN to press ahead with the mine despite the pandemic, providing a government determination in March that mining is an “essential activity.” According to satellite images obtained by the Pro-Indian Commission of São Paulo, a nonprofit that supports traditional communities, work at the Aramã site has continued this year, with bauxite mining and expansion of the mine into newly deforested areas occurring simultaneously.
As part of the licensing process, the company did complete an environmental-impact study for the Aramã project. But critics say the study failed to acknowledge ribeirinho communities’ use of the land, much less the potential impacts on local water quality. According to the Pro-Indian Commission’s Andrade, an anthropologist, an essential first step is to study in detail what negative impacts are already occurring as a result of the new mine and what further harm could be done to the forests and streams that the ribeirinhos use. “Only after understanding how this [mine] could affect the subsistence and way of life of the communities will it be possible to define what mitigation and compensatory measures are needed,” she says.
The Pro-Indian Commission’s Andrade says special water quality standards should be adopted for the Amazon region. “It is one thing to consider water [in urban centers] that will be treated before it is consumed as adequate,” she says. “It’s another thing to use these same standards for water that is going to be consumed directly from the stream.”