Brazil's Mura people report threats amid pressure to approve Amazon potash mine

By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Leaders of Brazil's Mura people said on Friday tensions have risen in the Autazes region where they live after a federal agency crew visited the area to discuss potentially demarcating their ancestral land, which overlaps with an area where a Canadian company wants to build a potash mine.

Speaking at a press conference hosted by federal prosecutors in the state of Amazonas, two Mura leaders said their communities have received renewed threats after Funai, the federal indigenous agency, visited the region in late March to start demarcation discussions of the Soares/Urucurituba territory, where Potassio do Brasil plans to build the $2.5 billion project.

Sergio, a Mura leader, said false information began to circulate after Funai showed up, including that the agency would "take away farmers' land." Sergio said Funai's mission was only to explain a potential future demarcation, which is a long process. But the area is rife with conflict, with Amazonian tribes having suffered for decades with farmers' encroaching on their reservations.

A second Mura leader, Adnelson, reported threats "before and after" Funai's visit, including a note left at the local indigenous council saying, "Someone will suffer the consequences if Potassio's mine does not happen."

Potassio do Brasil, a unit of Toronto-based Brazil Potash, has previously denied any coercion and said it has followed the consultation protocol strictly. Regarding the allegations made by the Mura leaders during the press conference, the firm said it was encouraged by the federal prosecutor working on the case, "leaving no other alternative for the company but the tireless search for justice."

Federal prosecutor Fernando Soave said ongoing court-supervised Mura consultations have not been "free" or "in good faith," citing threats against the Mura since the company began trying to approve the mine project.

The prosecutor reiterated that the Mura consultations should be suspended because demarcation studies have not concluded. A court decision is pending regarding that request.

"When consultations started, chaos descended," Soave said, adding he has contacted state protection services to act on behalf of the indigenous community.

Potassio do Brasil needs three years to build the installations for the mine and aimed to start potash production there in 2026.

(Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Josie Kao and Leslie Adler)