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Strategic planning to mitigate mining impacts on protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon


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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Fig. 1: Scenarios of PAs downgrading in the study region with respective road network required to access mineral deposits.
Fig. 2: Direct and indirect deforestation and the proportion within areas with high biological importance.
Fig. 3: Fragmentation and deforestation over 30 years of development.
Fig. 4: Road extent to show impacts on areas with high biological importance as consequences of downgrading Indigenous lands.

Data availability

All data supporting the findings of this study are either publicly available online via the referenced source or can be obtained directly from the corresponding author upon request.


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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).

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J.S.-G., L.J.S. and L.E.S. were involved in the conceptualization. J.S.-G. wrote the original draft, and J.P.M., L.J.S. and L.E.S. reviewed and discussed all results. J.S.-G. processed data and designed maps. L.J.S. supervised the modelling exercise, and J.P.M. supervised the fragmentation analysis.

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Correspondence to Juliana Siqueira-Gay.

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Nature Sustainability thanks Tim Werner and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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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).

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