Brazil's VP Mourao says mining in indigenous lands is legal, but needs regulation

FILE PHOTO: Brazil’s Vice-President Hamilton Mourao reacts during the swearing-in ceremony of Brazil’s new Health Minister Nelson Teich, at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

(Reuters) – Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao defended mining on indigenous reservations on Monday, saying the constitution allowed for that though regulations are needed to ensure miners pay taxes to the government and royalties to the tribes.

Mourao said in a radio interview with Grupo Estado that Brazil should map the resources of the Amazon rainforest by allowing exploration in order to draw private investment. But he said regulation was necessary to set environmental rules.

The vice president said the government’s operations to monitor and control fires in the Amazon rainforest will be extended until the end of 2022.

Brazil is facing international criticism for the worst fires in a decade in the Amazon and other parts of Brazil, such as the Pantanal wetlands where much wildlife has been killed.

Fires last month burnt recently deforested areas as well as virgin forest, a worrying trend that suggests the rainforest is becoming drier and more prone to fire. Fires are used by ranchers to clear land for new pastures.

In a response to a question, Mourao said he was unaware of discussions to merge the agriculture and environment ministries and dismissed criticism of the farm lobby. He said agribusiness was the most interested in protecting the environment.

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