Bolsonaro proposes Amazon mining over fertilizer shortages

Officials from Para State, northern Brazil, seize a tractor at a camp of illegal loggers found during surveillance of areas of the Amazon rain forest being deforested, in the municipality of Pacaja, 620 km from the capital Belem, on September 23, 2021.

Brasília, Brazil | Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday proposed lifting a ban on mining in indigenous territories in the Amazon to offset potential fertilizer shortages due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The far-right leader said that mineral extraction in indigenous territories -- something vehemently opposed by those local communities and environmentalists -- was necessary to avoid dependence on imported products.

"With the Russia/Ukraine war we now face the risk of a lack of potassium or that its price rises," Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter.

Potassium is a crucial ingredient in many fertilizers.

Agriculture giant Brazil imports more than 80 percent of the fertilizers it uses, and when it comes to those containing potassium, that figure rises to 96 percent, according to the agriculture ministry. 

Close to 20 percent of the fertilizers it imports come from Russia.

"Our food security and agribusiness require Executive and Legislative measures so that we don't depend externally on something we have in abundance," said Bolsonaro.

He also cited a bill first proposed in 2020 that would allow for the extraction of minerals in indigenous territories in the Amazon, something that is currently banned by law.

"When this bill is approved, that would solve the problem."

Since coming to power in 2019, Bolsonaro has pushed for a relaxing of environmental protection laws and has faced international protests due to the increase in Amazon deforestation under his watch.

Bolsonaro, who visited Russian President Vladimir Putin a week before he sent troops to invade Ukraine, has maintained Brazil's "neutrality" in the conflict.

However, on Wednesday Brazil supported a United Nations General Assembly resolution demanding Russia withdraw "immediately" from its neighbor.

Later in the day, Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina, told a press conference that Brazil has other partners, such as Canada, who could supply the needed fertilizers, "if not all of them, at least a good part of them."

© Agence France-Presse

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