U.S.-based financial institutions play a key role in enabling the destructive actions of companies linked to violations of Indigenous rights and conflicts in Indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon, according to a new report published by the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB) and Amazon Watch.
Complicity in Destruction III: How global corporations enable violations of Indigenous peoples’ rights in the Brazilian Amazon identifies six major U.S.-based financial Institutions —BlackRock, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Vanguard, Bank of America, and Dimensional Fund Advisors — that from 2017 to 2020 invested more than US$18 billion dollars in nine companies enabling forest destruction and Indigenous rights violations. The report documents how three Brazilian economic sectors — mining, agribusiness, and energy — have driven conflicts with Indigenous peoples in recent years.
The following nine companies in those three sectors are profiled in the report: mining companies Vale, Anglo American, and Belo Sun; agribusiness companies Cargill, JBS, and Cosan/Raízen; and energy companies Energisa Mato Grosso, Equatorial Energia Maranhão, and Eletronorte, spanning the states of Pará, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Amazonas, and Roraima.
The case studies outline the nine companies’ involvement in a series of abuses including land invasions, the violation of Indigenous peoples’ rights to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC), violence against Indigenous communities, illegal deforestation, and the use of pesticides, among others.
“The flow of foreign investments to companies operating in Brazil has expanded into an intricate international network. As these projects advance, Indigenous peoples are often treated as an ‘obstacle to development,’ and their lands are invaded, occupied, looted, and destroyed,” said Eloy Terena, APIB’s attorney. “These conflicts stem from the pressure to open new exploitative operations in Indigenous territories, leading to full-on attacks by land-grabbers and other local actors, accompanied by the systematic disrespect for the legislation that protects Indigenous lands and rights.”
According to data analyzed by APIB and Amazon Watch, the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, invests in nearly all of the companies identified in this report. BlackRock alone holds US$8.2 billion of stocks and bonds in JBS, Energisa, Belo Sun, Vale, Anglo American, Cargill, Cosan, Eletrobras, and Equatorial Energia. Despite receiving widespread accolades for taking steps to address its investments in climate-damaging industries earlier this year, BlackRock lacks any binding policies to address the impacts of its investments on the rights of Indigenous peoples or on the deforestation of tropical rainforests like the Amazon.
The second largest asset manager in the world, Vanguard, holds shares and/or bonds in eight of those companies: Anglo American, Cargill, Cosan, Eletrobras, Energisa, Equatorial Energia, Vale, and JBS, for a total of US$2.7 billion.
JPMorgan Chase, whose Social and Environmental Policy Framework includes a specific commitment to protecting Indigenous rights, has invested US$2.4 billion in the companies Anglo American, Cargill, Cosan, Eletrobras, Energisa, Equatorial, Vale, and JBS.
CASE STUDIES: COMPANIES
This report identifies three key sectors of Brazil’s economy responsible for conflicts with Amazonian Indigenous peoples: mining, agribusiness, and energy. Such conflicts stem from the private sector’s exploitation of Indigenous lands, wherein companies ignore direct attacks on these lands by land-grabbers and other local actors, as well as systematically disregard laws that protect Indigenous lands and rights, especially the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.
Based on case studies from each sector, we have identified the following Brazilian and international companies involved, directly or indirectly, in situations involving land conflicts, and violations of socio-environmental and indigenous rights in the Brazilian Amazon since 2017, and which also depend on the patronage of international buyers and/or investors, as detailed below.
Check the summary cases about mining companies and read the full report here.
Xikrin do Cateté Indigenous Territory
Location: Ourilândia do Norte, Pará
Commodities: Nickel and iron
Summary: Nickel mining by Vale contaminated the Cateté River, a main source of water for the Xikrin people of Pará. Vale did not secure FPIC from the community. The community has faced increasing threats against their life and culture, deforestation in ancestral sites, and exposure to COVID-19 (Vale has continued operations despite the pandemic).
Rio Pindaré, Araribóia, and Mãe Maria Indigenous Territories
Location: Ourilândia do Norte, Pará
Commodities: Nickel and Iron
Summary: Vale largely depends on the Carajás Railway to transport its commodities. The railway directly affects four TIs: Rio Pindaré, Mãe Maria, Xikrin, and Arariboia, and every year it hauls about 120 million tons of iron ore from the Carajás iron mine in Pará state to the port of Ponta da Madeira in Maranhão state. Indigenous people in the region have accused the company of consistently failing to comply with agreements it signed to mitigate the impacts of its operations.
Among the 236 pending requests by Vale for mining exploration that overlap other TIs in the report, we also highlight those slated for: the Trombetas/Mapuera TI located between Roraima, Amazonas and Pará with 68 applications; the Munduruku TI in Pará with 52 applications; the Xikrin do Rio Catete TI with 37 applications; the Kayabi TI with 35 applications and the Mengraknoti/Baú TI, with 26 applications.
Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory
Location: Itaituba, Pará
Summary: Anglo American has registered almost 300 requests with the Agência Nacional de Mineração (National Mining Agency) to survey areas that include Amazonian TIs. These requests include areas corresponding with 18 TIs, some of which are inhabited by peoples in voluntary isolation. The most recent target of Anglo American is the disputed Sawré Muybu Indigenous Land near the Middle Tapajós River, currently inhabited by the Munduruku people. Between 2017 and 2019, Anglo American submitted five requests, despite the prohibition against mining on TIs.
Trincheira Bacajá & Arara da Volta Grande Indigenous Territories
Location: Altamira, Pará
Summary: Belo Sun initiated research processes for 11 mining projects at the National Mining Agency that directly impact the Arara da Volta Grande do Xingu and Trincheira Bacajá TIs.
POTÁSSIO DO BRASIL
Jauary Indigenous Territory
Location: Autazes, Amazonas
Financial Institutions: Data unavailable
Summary: Potássio do Brazil is drilling inside Jauary Indigenous Territory in the state of Amazonas, which is inhabited by the Mura people, as well as in areas adjacent to other Indigenous reserves. Its drilling project poses the risk of mining waste contamination of the region’s groundwater.