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Ancient Amazonian Caves at Risk from Mine's Expansion Plans

Deep in the Brazilian Amazon there are a series of caves which archaeologists believe were inhabited by the some of the first people to live in the jungle, over 8,000 years ago. Normally such a site would be preserved as a heritage site and studied in order to learn about prehistoric human society … but not these caves.

These caves are located just near to the open pit Carajás mine, operated by Vale, the Brazilian mining company, and new plans to expand the mine includes the destruction of many of these precious caves.

Brazil finds itself in a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand the caves are a national treasure and should be preserved, yet on the other, the wealth of iron ore that is extracted from the mine, and then sold to China to make steel, provides the backbone to Brazil’s ambitions to revive its struggling economy.

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The decision lies with the Brazilian courts, which have the power to demand that companies preserve archaeological sites. In cases such as with the giant mining company Anglo American, work has been halted for fears that archaeological sites may be damaged.

Vale states that it has complied with regulations governing archaeological sites, and that it has laid out a proposal to preserve some of the caves, although dozens more will be destroyed. They states that whilst more than 24 ‘high relevance’ caves will be destroyed, others would be saved in order to compensate for the loss.

Frederico Drumond Martins, a biologist who works for the Brazilian government and looks after the Carajás National Forest, said that he was worried that future expansions to the mine would see the last few caves destroyed as well.

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com


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