Indigenous Peoples

Brazil does a U-turn on fracking. Indigenous lands protected from oil and gas exploration

The government sold indigenous land in the Amazon’s Juruá Valley to oil and gas companies. But a court ruled against this, protecting inhabitants from fracking.

A judge has recognized the right to land of uncontacted indigenous peoples in the Amazon‘s Juruá Valley. The Brazilian government sold off protected areas adjacent to their ancestral territories at an auction, in order for oil and gas companies to conduct resource exploration including for fracking. In December last year a court decided to revoke the concessions granted, and order the suspension and cancellation of further exploration and production activities. The judge highlighted the social and environmental risks related to these, such as damage to local ecosystems and the daily life of communities.


amazon river brazil
The Amazon River in Brazil © Mario Tama/Getty Images

Selling off the Juruá Valley

The government sold an area of over 122,000 kilometres squared across a dozen Brazilian states at auction – without the preventive consultation of indigenous communities – including land in the state of Acre where there are tribes who live in voluntary isolation. The court’s sentence against this came after months of protests conducted by the Brazilian No Fracking Coalition (Coalizão Não Fracking Brasil – COESUS), a civil society movement thousands of people strong that campaigns against fracking and to raise awareness about its impact on ecosystems, communities and native peoples’ rights. During the auction of swaths of land in indigenous areas in Acre and the state of Paraná, organized by ANP (the National Petroleum Agency), the organisation carried out a blitz in which nine indigenous leaders shared their experiences in front of oil and gas companies’ representatives and the international press.


Fracking © Spencer Platt/Getty Images

What is fracking

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, requires drilling deep down into the Earth and injecting high-pressure water mixed with sand and chemicals into shale rock in order to release the gas contained inside. It strongly impacts the environment as it implicates a large consumption of water as well as chemical contamination of soil and aquifers. In fact, 80% of the injected liquid returns to the surface as reflux water. Moreover, some scientists theorize a correlation between fracking and low magnitude earthquakes.

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