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Brazil has opened a huge chunk of the Amazon to mining

Posted August 24

Brazil has opened a massive swath of the Amazon to mining.

The government has abolished a reserve that straddles the northern states of Par- and Amap-, a move that opens the vast area to mineral exploration and commercial mining.

The reserve, which was established in 1984, is huge: It covers 18,000 square miles, an area twice the size of New Jersey.

Brazil said that mineral extraction would only be allowed in areas where there are no conservation controls or indigenous lands. An official report from 2010 said that up to two-thirds of the reserve is subject to such protections.

The government, which has previously said that the region is rich in minerals, gold and iron, framed the decision as an effort to attract new investment, boost wealth generation and create jobs.

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The decision sparked outrage among activists and environmental groups.

Opposition politician Randolfe Rodrigues called it "the biggest crime against the Amazon forest since the 1970s."

In July, Brazil announced a plan to revitalize the country's mining sector. It said the industry now makes up 4% of Brazil's economy, and employs 200,000 people. The government wants to increase the sector's contribution to 6%.

Brazil emerged from the longest recession in its history in the first quarter. Unemployment reached record high in June, with more than 14 million people out of work.

-- Vasco Cotovio contributed reporting.

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