Photo: Thais Brito / Flickr

Belo Sun’s alleged complicity in death threats made to those condemning their mining project in the Xingu River Basin exemplifies how companies seek to continue their controversial activities by quietening their critics.

Photo: Thais Brito / Flickr

Belo Sun is a proposed gold mining project in the Brazilian Amazon. It is located on the Xingu River Basin, only 13 km downstream from the Belo Monte Hydropower Plant. Brazilian courts have suspended the mine’s licenses, effectively putting the project on hold.[1] The case is still pending.

There are many local organizations and social movements that oppose the mine. This opposition stems from (i) its projected social-environmental impacts; (ii) uncertainty about the cumulated effects of Belo Sun and Belo Monte; and (iii) distrust in promises of local benefits and remediation processes, due to a perception that the construction of the Belo Monte dam caused severe damages despite similar pledges.

The organizations and individuals who have spoken out against the mine have endured continuous episodes of harassment. Those opposing the mine were consistently confronted by pro-mine groups and were threatened with injury and death.[2] This intimidation came from local public officials (especially the mayor, his affiliates and supporters). Some defenders suffered physical assaults such as pushing and choking.

According to the threatened individuals, local Belo Sun employees were not only aware of the episodes of harassment, they were sometimes present and even complicit.[3] Following recommendations made by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, some defenders have had to flee the region in order to protect themselves. Therefore, they were removed from their human rights work, as well as from their families and means of livelihood.[4]

Through alleged continous harassment of human rights defenders, Belo Sun and its liaisons within the community have stifled the voices of those opposed to the mine. By forcing them away from their homes, this strategy has been successful not only in decreasing opposition, but also in cutting defenders off from their families and sources of income.

[1] Isabel Harari, “Court orders federal licensing of Belo Sun,” Medium, September 12, 2018, (accessed October 24, 2019).

[2] Conectas and Justiça Global, “Hostilies and death threats against human rights and environmental defenders as retaliation for their opposition to Belo Sun Mining Corp. in the Brazilian Amazon,” April 24, 2018, (accessed October 24, 2019).

[3] Conectas and Justiça Global.

[4] Conectas and Justiça Global.