The Brazilian lawsuits have hit the massive Amazon gold mining project

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RIO DE JANEIRO – A Brazilian federal court on Monday upheld the suspension of an environmental license for what would be the largest open pit gold mine in the country’s Amazon rainforest, and gave the Canada-based company behind the project a blow.

Belo Sun Mining Corp. appealed the same court ruling from 2017, which found that the company’s consultation with local indigenous peoples and study of the project’s socio-environmental impacts did not meet the criteria required by the National Indian Foundation.

With a 3-0 vote, the court upheld its earlier decision. Belo Sun can appeal the decision to a higher court.

The company’s Volta Grande project is located on the banks of the Xingu River in the state of Para. It is located about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from Belo Monte, the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam. The Belo Monte Dam has reduced the flow of the Volta Grande (Big Bend) stretch of the Xingu River, where the Belo Sun project is located. Among other impacts, the fish stock, which is a staple of the local population, is declining.

“My community was not consulted about the Belo Sun project,” Lorena Curuaia, a leader from the village of Iawa, told The Associated Press by telephone. “Belo Monte has already had a huge impact on Xingu. Another project could mean the death of the local people. “

Belo Sun has argued that it has already consulted the indigenous peoples and that their immediate community is more than 10 km (6 miles) away. The federal prosecutor’s office states that the company only considered officially demarcated areas and that indigenous communities outside these locations should also be taken into account.

Contacted by phone and email Monday, Belo Sun’s office in Brazil did not respond to AP requests for comment on the court’s decision, or whether it would appeal.

According to the company, the project covers 2,400 hectares (5,930 acres).

“This is another victory for the natives and river population of the Volta Grande do Xingu,” said Federal Prosecutor Felício de Araújo Pontes Jr. in a text message. “They know that a mining project could have devastating consequences for the region. The verdict shows the resilience of this population.”

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