The largest coal mine in Brazil has been closed. It really happened. Federal judge Clarides Rahmeier, of the 9th Federal Court of Porto Alegre, annulled the environmental licensing process for the Guaíba Mine, in the metropolitan region of Porto Alegre. The decision is a response to the October 2019 lawsuit, when the Poty Guarani Indigenous Association and the Arayara Association of Education and Culture filed a public civil action against the National Foundation of the Indian – FUNAI, the Henrique Luis Roessler State Foundation for Environmental Protection – FEPAM, and the Copelmi Mineração Ltda. Other organizations later joined the action.
According to the judge, “there was no participation of indigenous peoples in the discussions, not even through the holding of consultations at the same time as the initial studies” in the licensing process, which was already at a very advanced stage. The coalition of civil entities that form the Committee to Combat Megamining in RS (CCM-RS), with the objective of preventing the installation of large extraction mines, celebrated the decision.
In an interview with G1, Emiliano Maldonado, a lawyer who represents the Coordination Council of the Guarani People and a member of the National Network of Popular Lawyers, said that “a coal mining project, in the 21st century, with the climate emergency, is unsustainable. Imagine summer in Porto Alegre, with the largest open pit coal mine polluting the entire region. What would be the situation in the capital? And putting at risk the Guarani way of life and the production of agroecological rice and other foods that are produced in the region, in addition to the geological risks to the water resources, which account for almost 80% of the water from the Guaíba.”
The judgment innovates by applying as a legal foundation the National Policy of the Judicial Branch for the Environment, which establishes the “respect for the self-determination of indigenous peoples, traditional and extractive communities and a guarantee to the respective right to prior, free and informed consultation defined by ILO convention no 169 (…); and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (article 1, V).
In times of climate crisis, the mine closure directly contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a positive result not only for indigenous peoples, but also for society as a whole.