Growing demand for minerals is increasing pressure to open protected areas (PAs) for mining. Here we develop spatially explicit models to compare impacts among five policy scenarios to downgrade combinations of PA to allow mining in the Brazilian Amazon. We found downgrading (opening) the region’s entire PAs network to develop an additional 242 mineral deposits would cause 183 km2 of deforestation from mining, half of this in highly biodiverse regions. This scenario would also require 1,463 km of new roads that facilitate access to the region, causing indirect deforestation (estimated to be 40 times larger than direct mining clearing) and forest fragmentation. Downgrading fewer PAs would halve the impacts of mine expansion but require longer access roads per additional deposit mined to avoid crossing areas still protected. Promoting sustainable development while safeguarding biodiversity in mineral-rich regions requires strategic long-term planning that includes identifying no-go areas critical to conservation and designing policies to reduce infrastructure impact when providing access to new mining areas.
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This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior—Brasil (CAPES)—Finance Code 001. This research was supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation (grant 2018/12475-7). J.P.M. was funded by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPQ, 309767/2021-0).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Siqueira-Gay, J., Metzger, J.P., Sánchez, L.E. et al. Strategic planning to mitigate mining impacts on protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon. Nat Sustain (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-022-00921-9