MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2007-06-04


Funai states that parts of the Constitution still need to be codified before there can be any discussion on mining in indigenous lands


4th June 2007


Today (4th), the President of the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai), Márcio Meira, said that two articles in the Federal Constitution (231 and 232) that address indigenous rights would still have to be codified in law before there can be any discussion on allowing mining companies to work on indigenous lands. This has been Funai's stance in discussions of the bill of law for over a year now. The topic was discussed at the National Conference of Indigenous Peoples last year, and will be discussed by the National Commission on Indigenist Policy.

Paragraph three of article 231 determines that "use of water resources, including for power generation, research and mining of mineral wealth on indigenous lands can only be accomplished with authorization of the National Congress". The law also establishes that the "affected communities", in other words, the indigenous peoples, must be heard, 'with their rights assured them of sharing in the profits of the mine, under the terms of the law". No specific law codifying this Constitutional article, however, has ever been enacted.

"There has not yet been any codification of the 1988 Constitution on this matter. We shall certainly be taking this up for discussion. The government is discussing this issue and will be discussing it with the National Commission on Indigenist Policy (CNPI)", he informed during an interview with Agência Brasil.

The National Indigenist Policy Commission (CNPI) will hold its first meeting today in Brasília. The commission is an advisory body and was established in 2006 for the purpose of monitoring federal government agency activities related to indigenous issues and also to monitor the enactment and alterations in laws that relate to indigenous peoples. In April of last year, at the 1st National Conference of Indigenous Peoples, indigenous leaders asked for advances in discussions on suggestions from indigenous peoples on the writing of the bill of law.

At the time, the attorney-general for Funai, Luiz Fernando Villares, said that the proposal submitted to indigenous groups at the conference stated that mining would have to have the consent of the communities from the region where the activity was to be conducted.

Moreover, companies interested in mining mineral wealth on indigenous lands would have to participate in a tender process. Indigenous groups can also participate in the tender process through partnerships with companies or cooperatives and indigenous associations. The president of Funai believes that codification of the articles could end illegal mining of mining companies already present on indigenous lands. "Having specific regulations is better so that indigenous peoples clearly know what they are responsible for and that they have a place assured them in the development of Brazil, than to have no regulations and to have a situation such as what we have today, where everybody just does what they want and there is no control over the issue".

To the leaders of the Kayapó nation, chief Akiabouro Caiapó, member of CNPI, the bill that is being written by the government, which provides that mining companies interested in mining on indigenous lands will pay royalties to the indigenous communities needs to be revised. In the chief's opinion, the allocation and division of some 3% of the total earnings from ore mining with indigenous groups and a fund that will be managed by Funai is unfair. "I don't accept this. I am against this bill. We will discuss it further. If it were 50% directly to the indigenous people, then I would even agree and I would talk to leaders throughout Brazil".

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