Report shows how Bolsonaro delegated corporate mining to MDB while promoting illegal miners

In Amazônia, De Olho na Política, De Olho nos Conflitos, Em destaque, Governo Bolsonaro, Principal, Últimas

Fourth report in the Bolsonaro Dossier series shows that areas invaded in Munduruku and Yanomami lands have tripled since 2019, while the president has created resolutions to facilitate mining; in Congress, mining-funded congressmen are trying to legalize criminal extraction in reserves and guarantee benefits to the sector

By Luís Indriunas

— I feel like mining. I have mined too. I had a set of sieves, I always had a battery in my car and I couldn’t see a stream and I would fall into it

Dossier shows direct action by Bolsonaristas to benefit gold miners and miners.

The phrase of president Jair Bolsonaro (PL-RJ), said to supporters in April 2020, shows his obsession with mining. The candidate for reelection has already expressed, more than once, his desire to resurrect the times of Serra Pelada, in Pará, when, in the final years of the military dictatorship, a veritable human anthill of more than 100,000 miners formed to extract precious metals from the heart of the earth, working in degrading and sometimes subhuman conditions.

But at the same time that he is working to benefit cooperatives and criminal groups operating in illegal mining in the Amazon, Bolsonaro is maintaining incentives for large mining companies and serving the interests of the MDB in the composition of positions in the National Mining Agency (ANM).

This dual policy adopted in the mining sector is the theme of the report “The Open Veins“, the fourth in the Bolsonaro Dossier series, by De Olho nos Ruralistas, which explores the land policy of the current government.

The first three documents in the series detail the president’s favoring of banana producers from Ribeira Valley, the subdivision of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), and the occupation of the Ministry of Environment by the private sector, respectively.

In his articulation for the advancement of mining, Bolsonaro has the support of the Mining Working Group in the Chamber of Deputies, whose rapporteur, Joaquim Passarinho (PL-PA), defends mineral exploration on indigenous lands. While the law is not coming, the president has signed eight decrees that benefit small and medium mining companies and facilitate illegal mining. Among them is Decree No. 10,965, of February 11, 2022, which provides for the ANM to establish “simplified criteria for analysis of procedural acts and granting procedures,” especially in the case of small-sized enterprises. The regulation benefits miners and the construction industry, which uses minerals such as clay, gravel, gravel, limestone, calcium and ornamental rocks.

Click here to download the full dossier.


Bolsonaro was the first president to visit an illegal garimpo, in RR. (Reproduction/Facebook)

During the Bolsonaro administration, there was a 334% increase in the area of mining for gold and tin in Munduruku lands in southwest Pará. The data come from the MapBiomas platform and were compiled exclusively by De Olho nos Ruralistas for the report “The Open Veins“.

The area allocated to tin alone had an exorbitant increase of 4,215.5%. In 2018, the mining of this ore occupied 53.6 hectares, increasing to 2,314 hectares in 2021. In the same period, the Apyterewa Indigenous Land, in São Félix do Xingu (PA), showed an increase of 475.9% in the area mined for gold. The Yanomami Indigenous Territory, on the border between Amazonas and Roraima, saw an increase of 328.6%.

In the Munduruku Land, in Pará, the illegal exploitation of minerals has caused a series of problems for the ethnic group, such as the contamination of rivers, fish, and people by mercury, in addition to increasing conflicts over land. A study published in 2021 by researchers from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), in partnership with the NGO WWF-Brazil, showed that, of every ten indigenous participants, six had mercury levels above safe limits. Among the consequences of contamination by the metal are malformation in babies, neurological diseases, vision and hearing problems, and neurodevelopment problems – the latter affecting 15.8% of the children in the territory.

Pará and Roraima were the states where non-industrial-scale mining advanced the most during Jair Bolsonaro’s administration. The area in Roraima, which was 462.5 hectares in 2018, increased to 1,657.9 hectares in 2021 – an increase of 258.5%. This is where most of the Yanomami estimate that there are 20,000 miners in their territory, mining gold and cassiterite.

It was in Roraima, in October 2021, that Bolsonaro became the first president to visit an illegal mining area, located inside the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous land. There, before dozens of miners, he defended the approval in Congress of Bill No. 191/2020, authored by the Executive Branch, which establishes simplified conditions for research and mining of mineral resources on indigenous lands.

Illegal mining in the Munduruku Indigenous Land (Credit: Cristhian Braga/Greenpeace)








Faced with the offensive of mineral exploration throughout the national territory, the opening of a Working Group for the revision of the Mining Code (GT Minera) has become one of the main instruments of alliance between the lobby of the mining sector – both industrial mining and irregular mining – and the interests of parliamentarians.

In the House, Congressman Joaquim Passarinho (PL-PA) defends the same interests as Bolsonaro (Credit: Reproduction/Facebook)

Instituted on June 16, 2021 by the president of the House of Representatives, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), the GT Minera was created one week after the police repressed a protest of indigenous people against the voting of the Bill no. 490/2007, which institutes the temporal mark, and also against the Bill no. 191/2020, which changes the rules of mining and makes exploration on indigenous lands possible.

Among the parliamentarians active in the articulation of the mining lobby, the most expressive are federal deputy Joaquim Passarinho, currently rapporteur of the GT Minera, and senator Zequinha Marinho, both from the PL of Pará. Passarinho defends the legalization of irregular mining activity and the provision of public areas where the environmental impact is lower. He is also a frequent interlocutor with local politicians, such as the councilman from Itaituba (PA) Wescley Tomaz (MDB), considered the “councilman of the miners” and with free access to the upper echelons of the federal government, as revealed by Agência Pública.

A sector that has presented important mobility in the Bolsonaro government is linked to the mining of ornamental rocks and civil construction. The Union of the Ornamental Rocks, Lime and Limestone Industry of Espírito Santo (Sindirochas-ES), the Brazilian Center of Ornamental Rocks Exporters (Centrorochas) and the Brazilian Association of Portland Cement (ABCP) are among the organizations received by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME). The main articulator with the Bolsonaro government is the ruralist congressman Evair de Melo (PP-ES), who draws attention for his dialogue with the mining sector. Running for reelection, the congressman, who usually receives donations from agribusiness, obtained R$ 30,000 from Gustavo Probst, one of the directors of Colores Marble and Granite, exporter of ornamental rocks.


In Minas Gerais, the Bolsonaro party is counting on Greyce Elias for the revision of the Mining Code. As soon as she began her mandate, she was active with the ANM, promoting hearings, complaining about the lack of structure in visits to the agency’s facilities and requesting information about the work of its employees. The deputy defends the merger of the agency with the Serviço Geológico do Brasil (former Companhia de Pesquisa de Recursos Minerais), a public company responsible for generating and disseminating geoscientific knowledge. Her goal was to increase ANM’s staff in order to speed up mining authorizations.

Deputy Greyce Elias is one of the articulators of the mining companies with the GT Minera (Credit: Reproduction)

The interest in ANM is not new for Greyce. Her husband, Pablo Cesar de Souza, was nominated by Aécio Neves (PSDB-MG) to occupy the superintendency of Minas Gerais, in 2017, still in the Temer government, while Aécio was a senator. His appointment provoked the resignation of 21 civil servants, who considered it “reckless or, at least, uncomfortable” due to the lack of technical knowledge of the deputy’s husband. Today Pablo is an advisor to the president of the Senate and donated R$ 20,000 to his wife’s reelection campaign.

The deputy from Minas Gerais is also very present in discussions about dams, while her biggest campaign donor, her brother Frederico Elias, owns PCH Dourados Usina Ltda, which has an operating license to dam the Dourados River in the municipality of Abadia dos Dourados. She, Frederico and two other brothers are partners in Recanto das Cerejeiras Empreendimentos Imobiliários Ltda, where the family operates in partnership with businessmen Paulo and Baltazar Moreira Alves, owners of Sevimol, one of the largest distributors of iron and steel in Alto Paranaíba, Triângulo Mineiro and Northwest of the state.

In 2018, Greyce received R$10,000 from Tales Pena Machado, vice president of the Ornamental Rocks, Lime and Limestone Industry Union of Espírito Santo (SindiRocha) and owner of the ornamental rocks exporter Magban.


For fourteen years the MDB has been present in the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), more specifically in the mining structure. This influence has remained virtually the same since the governments of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff of the PT, and has gained prominence during the administration of Michel Temer. Although Jair Bolsonaro has appointed a military minister, there has been no change in the distribution of powers within the portfolio.

Michel Temer’s MDB kept influence over MME during Bolsonaro’s government (Credit: Marcos Corrêa/PR)

The current director-general of ANM, Victor Hugo Froner Bicca, is a career civil servant, who has worked for the governments of emebedists Luiz Henrique da Silveira and Eduardo Pinho Moreira, in Santa Catarina, and was advisor to the General Directorate of the National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM) in 2011, during the term of Edison Lobão (MDB-MA) in MME. His brother João Manoel Froner Bicca was an MDB councilman in São Borja. His wife, Rosana Márcia Conde Bicca, candidate for councilor in São José in 2004, is also a party member.

He will be replaced in December, according to the agency’s rules, by Mauro Henrique Moreira Sousa, from the state of Maranhão, lawyer of the Union and legal advisor to the MME since the first term of his fellow countryman Edison Lobão, in 2009. This time, the aspiring director-general of the agency had his nomination reported by Chico Rodrigues (União-RR), former government leader in the Senate, farmer, defendant for invasion of public lands and known nationally for trying to hide money in his underpants during the Federal Police operation that investigated the embezzlement of funds directed to the purchase of rapid tests for Covid.

The senator is an advocate of what he calls “artisanal mining” and the imposition of limits on the actions of environmental inspectors when approaching miners.

| Luís Indriunas is assistant editor of Agribusiness Watch |

Cover illustration (Renato Aroeira/De Olho nos Ruralistas): the Bolsonaro government acts to benefit miners while maintaining the privileges of the big mining companies.

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