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Brazil's president declares six new indigenous reserves, granting First Peoples exclusive control of their resources

Giovanni Torre -

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has declared six new indigenous reserves, banning mining and restricting commercial farming in the areas.

Indigenous leaders welcomed the decree, covering about 620,000 hectares including a vast area of Amazon rainforest, but said more areas need protection.

The presidential decree grants indigenous people exclusive use of natural resources on the reserves, bans all mining in the areas and imposes tighter regulations on commercial farming and logging.

President da Silva has vowed to reverse the damage done by Mr Bolsonaro's administration, which promoted mining in indigenous lands.

Mr da Silva, who served as president in 2003-2010 and returned to office on 1 January this year, signed the demarcation decree on the final day of a recent gathering of indigenous people from around the country in the capital Brasília.

"We are going to legalise indigenous lands. It is a process that takes a little while, because it has to go through many hands," the former metalworker told the crowd.

"I don't want any indigenous territory to be left without demarcation during my government. That is the commitment I made to you."

Indigenous leaders welcomed the decree, though some noted the government had vowed to recognise 14 new territories and encouraged them to act with greater urgency.

The Bolsonaro era saw an alarming rise in deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, including by fires lit by miners hoping to drive indigenous peoples from their lands.

The six new reserves are throughout the country, located in central Brazil as well as the south and the north-east.

President da Silva's government has scheduled a meeting for early August to revive the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, a trans-national organisation dedicated to protecting the Amazon.

In January the president declared a medical emergency in the Yanomami territory, the country's largest indigenous reservation, following reports of children dying of malnutrition and other diseases caused by illegal gold mining. The Bolsonaro regime gave miners a free hand in the region, and also slashed funding to vital indigenous health services.

President da Silva's government has been conducting an ongoing campaign to drive illegal miners from indigenous lands.

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