Canadian firm aims to double potash output in project near Brazil indigenous lands

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Fertilizer is seen in a tractor as it is being spread in a soybean field, near Brasilia, Brazil February 15, 2022. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

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BRASILIA, March 15 (Reuters) - A Canadian-owned company has proposed doubling planned output of potash from a deposit in Brazil's Amazon to reduce the agricultural powerhouse's dependence on fertilizer imports disrupted by the Ukraine war.

Brazil Potash Corp said on Tuesday that its executives met with Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias in Ottawa and discussed increasing from 2.44 million tonnes to over 5 million tonnes per year the output from its Autazes project.

That could cover almost half of Brazil's need for potash, a key fertilizer. However, the company said it would take at least three years to come on stream once licensing has been obtained.

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Brazil Potash owner, investment bank Forbes & Manhattan, whose chairman Stan Bharti met with Dias on Sunday, has been trying to develop the Autazes deposit for more than five years, but the project has been held up by environmental concerns.

Prosecutors recommended in 2016 suspending the license to develop Autazes because the Mura indigenous tribe had not been consulted, in violation of Brazil's constitution.

Brazil depends on imports for 95% of its potash and is a major buyer from top suppliers Canada, Russia and Belarus. Last year, Brazil imported some 10 million tonnes.

About 30% of global potash supply has been taken out of the market due to the inability of Russian and Belarus producers to export.

"Our view is that the sanctions placed on Russia and Belarus are not going to be short-lived," Brazil Potash said in a statement sent to Reuters.

As potash prices tripled last year and geopolitical risks threatening supplies from Eastern Europe deepened, interest has grown in Brazil in the Autazes project.

Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has said Brazil needs to mine the deposit soon and has pushed for a law that would allow mining on indigenous reservations. read more

The company says the mine would have minor environmental impact. Salt separated from the potash at a surface processing plant would be returned underground, according to plans.

The Mura worry that it will pollute the rivers and scare away game and fish on which they depend.

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Reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia and Ernest Scheyder in Dallas; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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