The Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), alongside environmental and human rights organization Amazon Watch with the support of The Mining Observatory, launched “Complicity in Destruction IV: How mining companies and international investors drive Indigenous rights violations and threaten the future of the Amazon“.
This research is the first compilation of case studies exposing International actors’ risks of potentially financing illegal mining interests on Indigenous Lands – such as Xikrin do Cateté, Waimiri Atroari, and Sawré Muybu – in the Brazilian Amazon. U.S.-based corporations remain some of the main financiers complicit in this destruction.
Together, Capital Group, BlackRock, and Vanguard invested US$ 14.8 billion dollars in the nine companies investigated due to their research applications overlapping Indigenous lands, and track record of rights violations.
Complicity in Destruction IV reveals that over the last five years, Vale, Anglo American, Belo Sun, Potássio do Brasil, Mineração Taboca and Mamoré Mineração e Metalurgia (both from Grupo Minsur), Glencore, AngloGold Ashanti and Rio Tinto received a total of US$ 54.1 billion in financing from U.S., Brazilian and international investors. The companies profiled share a history of human and environmental rights violations and a long-lasting interest in expanding their operations into Indigenous territories – where mining is currently illegal.
Brazilian institutions also hold a substantial share in the financing of large mining: PREVI (Banco do Brasil’s Employee Pension Fund) holds the highest investments in these mining companies, with more than US$ 7.4 billion, followed by the private bank Bradesco, with almost 4.4 billion dollars, Caixa Econômica Federal, with US$ 786 million.
International private banks also stand out for their investments in these companies, including Crédit Agricole (France), Bank of America and Citigroup (U.S.), Commerzbank (Germany), and SMBC Group (Japan). All of these financial actors are complicit in mining-driven destruction.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, instead of bringing extractive industries to a standstill, actually drove the mining sector to break profit records over the last two years. These banks and asset managers still believe that investing in mining is ‘good’ for business, ignoring the extensive history of violations and impacts caused by this industry. Although many financiers were featured in previous editions of the report, this new edition demonstrates the urgency with which they need to commit to actual change in order to stop mining’s destructive trail. Their risk and exposure are only growing,” says Rosana Miranda, Campaign Advisor of Amazon Watch.
The company that received the most investments and loans in this period was Vale, with US$ 35.8 billion, showing that not even the successive disasters in the towns of Mariana and Brumadinho reduced investors’ appetite for the mining company.
The data, obtained with the support of the Dutch institution Profundo Research and Advice, also show Canada’s interest in financing mining in Brazil. The Royal Bank of Canada, the country’s largest private bank, poured US$ 512 million into mining companies, and is the main institutional investor of the Volta Grande gold mining project, by Belo Sun Mining Corp, which is considered both socially and ecologically unfeasible.
Photo Credit: Tuane Fernandes/Greenpeace
Mining companies hold active applications to explore Indigenous lands
Complicity in Destruction IV reveals that, despite recent statements by big mining companies claiming they would abandon their interests in Indigenous territories in Brazil, thousands of mining applications overlapping these areas are still active in the National Mining Agency’s (ANM) database.
Opening up Indigenous lands to mining and prospecting remains at the center of Bolsonaro’s agenda. With the advancement of federal policies such as Bill 191/2020 and Bill 490/2007 in Congress, these applications serve to grant mining companies priority to explore these territories if the bills succeed.
“The environmental damages and threats against the lives of forest peoples by mining activities are brutal and have only worsened under Bolsonaro’s administration. Last year, mining-related deforestation in the Amazon increased by 62% compared to 2018 – the year he was elected. We are aware that the approval of Bill 191 could cause the loss of 16 million hectares of the Amazonian rainforest.
With the rainforest at the tipping point of ecological collapse, we need to involve all the actors behind this industry. Governments, companies, and investors must all be held to account and stop this destruction. If companies fail to act, investors must divest,” says Ana Paula Vargas, Brazil Program Director of Amazon Watch.
Following the release of Complicity in Destruction III, APIB and Amazon Watch began mapping the interests of large mining companies overlapping Indigenous lands in 2020. Despite statements by giants such as Vale and Anglo American, claiming they would withdraw their applications for research and mineral exploration in these territories, our research shows that many applications remain active in ANM’s system—in some cases, there was even an increase in the number of requests. Additionally, some applications were resubmitted so that exploration areas remained directly adjacent to Indigenous lands, still causing enormous impact.
The report focuses on the mining interests in Indigenous lands from nine companies: Vale, Anglo American, Belo Sun, Potássio do Brasil, Mineração Taboca/Mamoré Mineração e Metalurgia (both from Grupo Minsur), Glencore, AngloGold Ashanti and Rio Tinto. Together, as of November 2021, they had a total of 225 active mining applications overlapping 34 Indigenous Lands — an area that corresponds to 5,700 square kilometers or more than three times the city of London.
The Indigenous lands that are most affected by these applications are Xikrin do Cateté (PA), Waimiri Atroari (AM), and Sawré Muybu (PA). The bulk of applications are concentrated in the Brazilian state of Pará, which increased twofold between July and November 2021.
The data was obtained through a partnership with the Mined Amazon project, from the InfoAmazonia portal, which resulted in an interactive dashboard — launched in tandem with the report — allowing real-time searches into the ANM database.
Complicity in Destruction IV also details the impacts and rights violations carried out by the mining companies Vale, Anglo American, Belo Sun, Potássio do Brasil, and Mineração Taboca in five case studies. With the support of the Mining Observatory, the history of these conflicts and their current developments were outlined, ranging from the invasion of traditional territories, contamination by heavy metals, and disregard for the right to Free, Prior, Informed consultation and Consent.
Through testimonies from the affected communities, which challenge the companies’ official statements about their initiatives, the report shows how the presence and activities of these corporations forever alter the lives of these peoples and communities. Mining in the Amazon, specifically within Indigenous communities, can also destroy ecosystems and contribute to climate change.
Mining companies deny interest in indigenous lands: answers received by The Mining Observatory so far
Vale denies that it continues to have any claim on indigenous lands in Brazil. According to the mining company, in a note: “Last year, Vale announced the abandonment of all its mining processes in ITs in the country (which includes research and mining requirements). The withdrawal requests were filed with the National Mining Agency (ANM) throughout 2021. This decision is based on the understanding that mining in ILs can only be carried out with the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the indigenous themselves and legislation that allows and adequately regulates the activity.
The allegations about the alleged contamination of the Cateté River are also unfounded, which has already been corroborated in expert reports prepared by judicial experts in several scientific areas, which prove that there is no causality between the Onça Puma mining operation and the alleged contamination”.
AngloGold Ashanti informs that it does not operate and has no interest in operating in Indigenous Lands (TIs). In the 1990s, the gold producer requested mineral research applications in several regions of the country. Three of these areas were later demarcated as Indigenous Lands (TIs), which led the company to give up on them. The decision was filed with the National Mining Agency (ANM) in the late 1990s. However, as there was no update of the process in the ANM system, AngloGold Ashanti ratified the withdrawal of the survey application on 21 June 2021. Currently, the company’s investments in Brazil are basically focused on the expansion of its mines located in Minas Gerais and Goiás.
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