Miner Vale drops prospects rights on indigenous lands in Brazil

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The logo of the Brazilian mining company Vale SA is seen in Brumadinho, Brazil January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Brazilian miner Vale SA (VALE3.SA) has given up all rights to mining prospects on indigenous lands in Brazil, recognizing that they require the consent of the communities and legislation regulating such activity, the company said on Wednesday.

Vale said in a statement that since last year it has returned to the National Mining Agency 89 licences for mineral research and mining activities in lands that interfere with indigenous reservations.

In the coming days, the company will file withdrawals and waivers for 15 remaining mining prospects that overlap with part of the Xikrin do Cateté reservation in Para, the northern state where Vale, one of the largest global producers of iron ore, extracts much of its mineral.

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Vale said prior consent was fundamental for the self-determination of indigenous people and the protection of their cultures and ways of life.

The company's decision came as Brazil's Supreme Court debates the constitutional validity of a cut-off date for indigenous land claims, which the government of President Jair Bolsonaro and farm sector have promoted in order to give farmers legal certainty in land disputes in the agricultural powerhouse.

Land not occupied by indigenous communities when Brazil passed its 1988 constitution has not been recognized as reservation land since 2016, based on a principle that the court has considered unconstitutional.

Indigenous people say land guarantees are vital for their survival and accuse Bolsonaro's right-wing government of trampling on their rights to allow commercial mining and agriculture on tribal lands in the Amazon and other parts of Brazil.

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Reporting by Marta Nogueira

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