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The Amazon: Economic Gold Mine or Political Minefield?

Sep 19, 2017 | 09:15 GMT
The rainforest covers more than half of Brazil's territory, including its border with seven other countries. Yet it is home to only about 12 percent of Brazil's population.

The Amazon rainforest covers more than half of Brazil's territory, including its border with seven other countries. Yet it is home to only about 12 percent of Brazil's population.

(ILDO FRAZAO/iStock)

Brazilian President Michel Temer issued a decree in August to allow mining in a 47,000-square-kilometer area of the Amazon formerly known as the National Reserve of Copper and Associated Minerals, or Renca. Environmentalists quickly condemned the measure, which they argued would pave the way for increased mining in the region and jeopardize Brazil's commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change. (The accord itself largely lacks enforcement mechanisms to keep Brazil on target, but countries such as Norway have threatened to withdraw their financial support for the Amazon Fund should Brasilia fall short of its its goals.) A judge subsequently suspended the decree's implementation, prompting the president to revise it to stipulate that mining in Renca may be conducted only if the activity protects natural resources and minimizes environmental damage. The regulatory dispute highlights the Brazilian government's perpetual struggle to assert its authority over the Amazon and tap into its...

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