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Brazil government freezes Amazon mining plans
by Staff Writers
Brasília (AFP) Sept 1, 2017

Experts concerned by Brazil environment policy under Temer
Sao Paulo (AFP) Sept 2, 2017 - The international scientific community is "deeply concerned" about Brazil's environmental policy under President Michel Temer, the head of the Society for Ecological Restoration said Friday.

"We have a deep concern right now, and I know many of the people of Brazil have a deep concern right now, with the roll-back of environmental protections and land protections, especially across Amazonia," the group's executive director Bethanie Walder told AFP.

The warning came after more than 1,000 environmental scientists from 65 countries met in Foz de Iguazu in southern Brazil for the SER's seventh international congress.

The meeting coincided with Temer's government being forced by a court to suspend a decree that would open up a vast natural reserve in the Amazon to commercial mining, following an outcry.

The American researcher said Brazil was in danger of disregarding the consequences of the destruction of its ecosystems, particularly in the Amazon.

"This is not a problem that is unique to Brazil but it is a very disturbing trend after many years of moving forward and seeing deforestation in the Amazon go down, and now we're starting to see it go up again. And so there is a real challenge that we could have very serious unintended consequences," she said.

The final statement of the four-day event urges immediate restoration work, but warns that "ecological restoration will not be enough to reverse a global environmental crisis if we do not stop the destruction of the ecosystem."

The SER called for creating appropriate legislation to that end and ensuring an active role for indigenous communities in the implementation of environmental policies.

"Brazil was in a leading position in Latin America but now we only see significant setbacks in environmental policy," said Vera Lex Engel, president of the World Conference on Restoration.

The Brazilian researcher questioned the growing lack of means for environmental monitoring, in the context of drastic budget cuts ordered by Temer.

Brazil's government said Thursday it has frozen attempts to license commercial mining in a huge natural reserve in the Amazon after a court decision put the controversial project on hold.

Mining and Energy Minister Fernando Coelho Filho "ordered a stop to all procedures having to do with eventual mineral rights" in the reserve in the eastern Amazon known as Renca, a statement from the ministry said.

"From now, the ministry will begin a broad debate with society on alternatives for protecting the region," the statement said. Measures to prevent ongoing activities destroying the rainforest would be discussed, it said.

The government admitted it was responding to public pressure since President Michel Temer signed a decree last week opening up the Renca area, which is the size of Denmark, to large- scale mining.

The rainforest there is rich in gold and other valuable commodities but has been protected for decades from private industry and is home to several indigenous tribes.

On Wednesday, a federal court in the capital Brasilia issued an injunction suspending Temer's decree. It was not clear from the mining ministry's statement Thursday whether the government was still pursuing an earlier promise to appeal that injunction.

The ministry's statement said that in 120 days it will issue its conclusions "based on this broad debate and any measures for promoting sustainable development, with a guarantee of conservation."

Critics of Temer's decree included international environmental groups, the Catholic Church and even supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who is Brazilian.

The Renca reserve is home to the indigenous Aparai, Wayana and Wajapi tribes and vast swaths of untouched forest, covering more than 17,800 square miles (46,000 square kilometers).

It contains important reserves of gold, manganese, iron and copper which until now have been available only to relatively low-level state-owned mining, although illegal miners also operate in the area.

The government insists that vital areas within the reserve, including where indigenous people live, would have remained off limits even if commercial mining companies were brought in.

Cambodia bans overseas exports of coastal sand
Phnom Penh (AFP) July 13, 2017
Cambodia has outlawed sand exports from a coastal region where it has been primarily funnelled in huge quantities to Singapore, a move met with scepticism from activists who said previous bans on the destructive industry had failed to take root. Environmental groups have long accused Cambodia of running damaging and corrupt sand dredging operations along the southwest coast and the Mekong ri ... read more

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