Of all Amazonian countries, Brazil has the most elaborated set of laws and regulations regarding small-scale gold mining. Small-scale mining is recognized as an economic activity, for which one can obtain a license. Operating without a proper license is illegal. That doesn’t stop many miners to work without one, evading tax, and ignoring rules and regulations for nature conservation.

The Mining Code of 1967 creates the criteria to claim mineral rights. It also defines rights of land owners and areas available for mining. In 1989, a law introduced the mining permit for small-scale mining activities, to either Brazilian citizens on an individual basis, or to associations constituted as a mining company. Mining permits are issued by the DNPM (National Department of Mineral Production).

In 2006, the Federal Government created seven Nature Conservation Units in the Tapajós region. Many of these units overlap with the small-scale mining reserve of Tapajós, created in 1983 by the Ministry of Mining. By creating these Conservation Units, all mining activities in this area became instantly illegal. Many miners have obtained a mining license before 2006; however, their licenses have not been withdrawn. Also, new applications are still being processed at the office of DNPM. The situation is confusing and causes unrest among the small-scale miners in Tapajós.

In 2008, a law known as the “Statute of Garimpeiro”, modified the legal definition of artisanal mining. It recognizes a diversity of working regimes. The Statute requires that artisanal miners recover the area they degrade by mining activities, and that they comply with the existing legislation regarding occupational safety and health.

In February 2011 the Ministry of Mines and Energy presented the 2030 National Mining Plan, in which a scenario for the mining sector for the next two decades is set out. However, small-scale mining is not mentioned in this plan. It seems the Brazilian government is unwilling to include small-scale mining in their future mineral policy…

Read more:
Latin Lawyer: The Business Law Resource for Latin America. 
Protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon: Challenges and opportunities. 
Reflections on the new mining regulatory framework in Brazil.

GOMIAM publications:
Kolen, J., Theije, M. de & Mathis, A. (2013). Formalized small-scale gold mining in the Brazilian Amazon: An activity surrounded by informality. In: Cremers, L., Kolen, J. & Theije, M. de (eds). Small-scale gold mining in the Amazon. The cases of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Suriname, pp. 31-45.

Theije, Marjo de, Judith Kolen, Marieke Heemskerk, Celine Duijves, Mariana Sarmiento, Alexandra Úran, Ingrid Lozada, Helcías Ayala, Jorge Perea, and Armin Mathis (2014). “Engaging legal systems in small-scale gold mining conflicts in three South American countries.” In Conflicts over Natural Resources in the Global South: Conceptual Approaches, edited by Maarten Bavinck, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and Erik Mostert, 129-146. Leiden, The Netherlands: CRC Press/Balkema.