The Brazilian government has dissolved an 18,000-square-mile protected reserve in the Amazon rainforest to open up portions of the area for commercial mining, according to Reuters. The reserve, which is twice the size of New Jersey, was created in 1984 and is believed to be rich in gold, iron, manganese, and other minerals.
Brazilian officials told news outlets that only about 30 percent of the reserve, known as the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca), will be opened to mining by the new decision. The rest of the land is currently protected as special conservation areas or indigenous land, and will remain that way even by abolishing Renca.
“The objective of the measure is to attract new investments, generating wealth for the country and employment and income for society, always based on the precepts of sustainability,” Brazil’s mining and energy ministry said in a statement.
But environmentalists and some elected officials have opposed the decision, saying it will lead to a surge in deforestation, population growth, and conflict over land. Senator Randolfe Rodrigues denounced the move as “the biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years,” O Globo newspaper reported.