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Brazil : Supreme Court's opportunity to address duty of state to protect human rights & environment in case of mining licences laws in state of Roraima

" Mining permits in Roraima and the state duty to protect under the UNGPs : a business and human rights case before the Brazilian Supreme Court", 8 Jul 2021

In a case regarding mining licenses laws in the northern state of Roraima, the Federal Supreme Court (STF) of Brazil has the opportunity to address – for the first time – the duty of the state to protect human rights and the environment in the context of business and human rights (BHR). The case (ADI 6672) shall determine if gold mining permits granted without Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are in accordance with the Brazilian Federal Constitution and the American Convention on Human Rights.

Since 8 February 2021, the state of Roraima has loosened its environmental regulations to foster mining projects. Among the different measures adopted, the law has removed the prohibition of using mercury in mining operations, contravening the Minamata Convention, which is an international treaty designed to protect the health and environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Brazil has been a party to this treaty since 2017. Although there is no date for the STF to release a merits judgement, in February 2021 the Court adopted a precautionary measure, indefinitely suspending the application of the new law.

The case has been litigated as a breach of the rights to a healthy environment, to health, physical integrity and life. However, interveners could have stressed the serious implications this case has for the field of BHR in Brazil...

This case enables the judiciary to comply with the State duty to protect human rights by ensuring that the local legislature indicates to companies the conduct they should adopt, which is to not use mercury for gold extraction. It is, without a doubt, a great opportunity for the judiciary to frame mining regulation as a BHR issue, opening up the possibility of defining the content of the Brazilian State’s duty to protect health and environmental rights from corporate abuses.