Brazilian Government Establishes Strategic Minerals Policy
Initiative seeks to support the environmental licensing of projects for the production of strategic minerals
The Brazilian Government (through Decree No. 10,657, of March 24, 2021) instituted the Policy for Supporting the Environmental Licensing of Investment Projects for the Production of Strategic Minerals (Pro-Strategic Minerals Policy). The initiative represents an effort of government agencies to articulate and prioritize actions regarding the environmental licensing process and, consequently, the implementation of mineral projects that are strategic for the country’s development.
In practical terms, the Pro-Strategic Minerals Policy has been qualified under the Investment Partnerships Program (PPI), which is a governmental body dedicated to expanding and accelerating the implementation of projects with the participation of the private sector in Brazil. Accordingly, the company that has a project of a mineral deemed strategic may request to PPI its project qualification, as long as it meets specific criteria.
Criteria for strategic minerals
According to the Decree, for a mineral to be deemed strategic for the country’s development, it must fit in one of the following categories:
- Minerals of which Brazil is mainly dependent on imports to supply key sectors of the economy, which seems to be the cases of potassium and phosphate, that are essential for the production of fertilizers;
- Minerals important for use in high-tech products and processes, which may contemplate rare-earth elements and lithium;
- Minerals with comparative advantages that are essential for the economy due to the generation of a surplus in the country’s trade balance, such as probably iron ore and niobium.
Committee creation and rules for licensing application
The Decree also instituted the Interministerial Committee for the Analysis of Strategic Mineral Projects (CTAPME) — to be established soon — including representatives from the PPI, the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations, the Institutional Security Office, and the Special Secretariat for Strategic Affairs of the Presidency of the Republic.
The CTAPME will be responsible for elaborating the list of strategic minerals for the country, considering the criteria above, and analyzing and defining which mineral projects shall integrate the Pro-Strategic Minerals Policy. Thus, in order to define if the project is eligible for support under the Policy, the CTAPME should consider each project’s specificities, relevance, and particularities in terms of licensing.
The company that is interested in submitting its project must prepare its application with general, technical, and qualitative data, and point out the project’s strategic nature and the difficulties that would justify its qualification. The existence of indigenous and quilombola lands in the project’s area of influence, the biome(s) in which it is inserted, the existence of environmental conservation units, and the possible impacts on goods protected due to its historical or cultural value are some of the matters to be considered in the project’s licensing process.
Once qualified, the project shall count on PPI’s support in following up the environmental licensing process. It is important to clarify that the usual environmental agencies remain fully responsible for conducting the licensing processes according to the applicable legislation. Furthermore, the environmental licensing process is not expected to be shorter, faster, or less rigorous. Therefore, the PPI’s role is to facilitate the necessary interaction among different entities so as to minimize risks and resolve conflicts that may happen, which may represent advances in mineral projects’ environmental licensing.