The Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region ruled in favor of Brazil Potash’s Autazes project in the Amazon on Tuesday.
Federal Judge Marcos Augusto de Souza suspended a lower court decision that ruled that if the land would be demarcated Indigenous in the future, then only Brazil’s Congress and federal agency Ibama could authorize mining in the area.
Federal prosecutors alleged in a civil action that the Institute for Environmental Protection of Amazonas (Ipaam), a regional agency, which initially granted the permit, didn’t have the right to do so.
Prosecutors also claimed that Potássio do Brasil, the Brazilian unit of Canadian miner Brazil Potash, violated local Indigenous population’s constitutional right of land usage, didn’t conduct sufficient consultation with affected communities and threatened local leaders.
Indigenous leaders told MINING.COM that the new decision doesn’t reflect the opinion of the 12,000 people who live in the region.
“There is no consensus on this. Especially in the village of Soares, which is the one that will suffer the most impact and unfortunately has been excluded from the dialogue,” said Herton Mura, a member of the Organization of Indigenous Leaders of the Mura People of Careiro da Várzea.
“The Federal judge disregarded that the consultation with residents of the region was not carried out correctly in accordance with the consultation protocol, that the Soares indigenous land is in the process of demarcation,” Mura said.
The Autazes project, however, is supported by the Mura Indigenous Council (CIM), one of the organizations that represent Indigenous peoples in the region.
“The company co-opted CIM leaders. It made promises of royalties, promises of improvements such as the construction of schools and health centers. These are public policies, not the company’s responsibility,” said Mariazinha Baré, coordinator of the Articulation of Organizations and Indigenous Peoples of Amazonas (Apiam).
CIM denies the allegations and said over 90% of the communities agreed with the project.
Brazil Potash also denies any wrongdoing. Adriano Espeschit, the President of Potássio do Brasil Ltda., told MINING.COM that 34 of the 36 villages impacted by the project were heard.
The proposed mine and processing facilities in Autazes, 120 km southeast of the capital of Amazonas state, Manaus, would require about three years to build.
The $2.5bn project would be built on low density cattle farm land, deforested several decades ago by prior owners, Brazil Potash said. The ore body is not located under Indigenous land, but is within 10km of two reserves resulting in the need for consultations with locals.
Production is expected to start in 2026 with an initial output sufficient to cover about 20% of Brazil’s potash needs. Project capacity is pegged at 2.2 million tonnes of potassium chloride per year, according to the company.