Brazil judge blocks decree allowing mining in Amazon

A Brazilian court blocked Wednesday a controversial decree by President Michel Temer that would have opened up a vast national reserve in the Amazon, larger than the size of Switzerland, to mining.

The order, signed by federal judge Rolando Spanholo, "suspends possible administrative acts based on the decree," signed by Temer, local O’Globo reports (in Portuguese).

It also determines that abolishing the protected status of the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca), can only be done by the Congress.

The area, covering 46,000 sq. km (17,800 sq. miles), is thought to be rich in gold, iron ore, copper and other minerals.

The area, covering 46,000 sq. km (17,800 sq. miles), is thought to be rich in gold, iron ore, copper and other minerals. The exploitation of those riches could help Brazil speed up its recovery from its worst recession on record, the government said when announcing the decree.

Temer also said the ruling would help authorities crack down on illegal mining that was taking place in the reserve, while opening the area up to legal operations and projects.

The Brazilian branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) recently warned that mining in the area would lead to "demographic explosion, deforestation, the destruction of water resources, the loss of biodiversity and the creation of land conflict".

The report said the main area of interest for copper and gold exploration is in one of the protected areas, the Biological Reserve of Maicuru. There is also said to be gold in the Para State forest, which lies within the area.

The government ended up yielding to pressure from environmentalists, celebrities and the even Brazils’ Catholic Church. Earlier this week, it reissued the decree with more details on overlapping protections that will remain in place after the abolition of Renca.