The fight against illegal mining and the impacts of gas exploration in the Juruá River are debated by local leaders, public agencies, and partner institutions.

With the presence of Ibama and ICMBio, the social movement of the Middle Juruá gathers to define strategies to prevent new illegal mining incursions in the region.

By Clara Machado, Ronnayana Silva and Renato Rocha

Participants of the 1st Meeting of Leadership for the Monitoring of Socioenvironmental Rights and Safeguards of the Middle Juruá, in Carauari (AM).

Maintaining the Juruá River as a “mining-free territory” and discussing the impacts of gas exploration were the goals of the 1st Meeting of Leadership for the Monitoring of Socioenvironmental Rights and Safeguards of the Middle Juruá. 

Following the successful operation against an illegal mining barge operating in the municipality of Itamarati (AM) last November, local associations and community leaders of the Middle Juruá started mobilizing to prevent mining from encroaching upon one of the last regions still free from mining activities in the Amazon.

In this regard, the Forum of the Middle Juruá Territory, which brings together local associations and institutional partners operating in the region, organized the event in Carauari (AM) on July 21st and 22nd, with the execution by Sitawi and OPAN, and support from the Association of Rural Producers of Carauari (ASPROC), ICMBio, Chico Mendes Memorial (MCM), and Juruá Institute. 

The program included lectures on the impacts of mining and gas exploration in different regions of the country, and discussions were held to contextualize the threats posed to the Juruá River basin and devise strategies to counter the advancement of these activities in the territory. Technical presentations were given by members of the Movement for Popular Sovereignty in Mining (MAM),, Juruá Institute, and OPAN.

Although organized by partner associations of the Middle Juruá, the objective is to protect the entire river basin, as the impacts of these activities in one area affect the river as a whole, as highlighted by José Alves, from the Association of Agroextractivist Residents of the Lower Middle Juruá (AMAB).

Rosângela Cunha, president of the Association of Agroextractivist Women of the Middle Juruá (ASMAMJ), was part of the opening panel of the event and emphasized that water contamination resulting from mining activities particularly affects women and children, who become more vulnerable due to their direct use of river waters in their domestic tasks, in addition to mercury, a metal used in the gold mining process, causing serious problems in the female reproductive system.

Panel of the event composed of the manager of Resex Middle Juruá, Manoel Cunha, Regional Coordinator of ICMBio, Wilzer Gonçalves, Superintendent of Ibama in Amazonas, Joel Araújo, City Councilor of Carauari, Antônio Almires, and Secretary of Environment of Itamarati, Natanilson Lopes.

“This fight is for the right to live,” stated the Regional Coordinator of ICMBio, Wilzer Gonçalves, who participated in the event. Ibama also had a presence through the Superintendent of the agency in Amazonas, Joel Araújo, who committed to “fight, with all our strength, against the arrival of illegal mining in Purus and Juruá.” 

The event also discussed the social and environmental impacts of oil and gas exploration in the region. Part of the Brazilian energy sector is preparing to begin exploration through fracking, a method of fracturing underground layers to extract gas. Also known as “gas mining,” fracking causes soil, river, and groundwater contamination. Despite efforts by the previous federal administration to regulate this technique, it is still prohibited in Brazil. Several Brazilian municipalities and states have also introduced bills to ban this gas extraction method. During the event, community leaders expressed opposition to the use of fracking in the Juruá.

“Community members are not against the country’s development or the exploitation of resources; the fight is against the predatory way it is done. […] The progress we believe in is the strengthening of local enterprises. The country’s development can be achieved in a different way that strengthens local culture and economy,” said Manoel Cunha, local leader and manager of the Middle Juruá Resex.

In addition to Ibama and ICMBio, the Municipal Council of Carauari, the Departments of Environment of Carauari and Itamarati, representatives of the indigenous Deni, Kanamari, and Majiha Kulina peoples, the Sustainable Amazon Foundation (FAS), the National Council of Extractivist Peoples (CNS), the International Institute of Education of Brazil (IIEB), and representatives of all associations that make up the Forum of the Middle Juruá Territory were present.

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