On 23 August 2017, the Brazilian federal government published a decree abolishing the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca), an area of 47,000 square kilometers between Pará and Amapá - equivalent to the size of the Switzerland.
The region, located primarily in Amapá, while rich in gold and other minerals, also encompasses nine protected areas, including state forests, ecological reserves and indigenous lands. These are the Tumucumaque Mountains National Park, the Paru and Amapá State Forests, the Maicuru Biological Reserve, the Jari Ecological Station, the Rio Cajari Extractive Reserve, the Sustainable Development Reserve of the Rio Iratapuru and the Waiãpi Indigenous Lands and Rio Paru d`Este.
The dissolution or reduction of these conservation units could generate a series of conflicts between mining activity, biodiversity conservation and indigenous peoples, a concern raised publicly by WWF-Brazil in a dossier released in May 2017. In addition, opening the left bank of the Amazon River to mineral exploration could exacerbate the threats posed by unsustainable infrastructure development in fragile ecosystems.
According to WWF-Brazil's executive director, Mauricio Voivodic, the opening up of mining activity at this site will put several protected areas at risk and could create irreversible impacts on the environment and communities in the region.
"Opening up these areas for mining without discussing environmental safeguards is a social and environmental international affront. In addition to demographic exploitation, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and water resources, this could lead to an intensification of land conflicts and threats to indigenous peoples and traditional populations. A gold rush in the region will create irreversible damage to local cultures as well", he warns.