Canadian company promises to employ locals in Amazon potash mine

By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO, August 16 (Reuters)Brazil Potash, the Canadian company that plans to build Latin America’s largest potash mine in the Amazon rainforest, is willing to employ local Mura indigenous people as it seeks their support for this sensitive project, said the company in an interview on Monday.

The Autazes project in Brazil, 120 km southeast of Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, would reduce the dependence of Brazilian agriculture on imports for 95% of its potash needs.

The Mura, who fear the mine will bring prostitution and drugs to their communities, have opposed the project. They did not respond to calls for comment.

Brazil Potash, owned by Stan Bharti’s Forbes & Manhattan group, a resource-focused merchant bank, and its partners CD Capital and Sentient, had obtained a facility license from Amazonas state authorities , but she was suspended by a court because the company had not consulted the Mura. Approval now depends on the completion of consultations.

“We plan to engage with the Mura to have a percentage of them in our workforce,” said general manager Matt Simpson, adding that they would also help the Mura start their own businesses.

Simpson said the Toronto-based company’s project will create 1,000 direct jobs and possibly up to 5,000 indirect jobs.

He hopes to get the facility permit by the end of the year so the company can start building the $2.4 billion mine. The last step is to obtain an operating license allowing Brazil Potash to start in 2026 as planned.

A spokesman for Jaiza Fraxe, the federal judge in Manaus who suspended the facility license, said talks with the Mura were still at the pre-consultation stage.

Simpson said he remains open to discussion whether Ibama, the federal environmental protection agency, should also approve the project. A court decision on the matter is pending.

“Brazil is a very bureaucratic country and that causes delays,” Simpson said fearlessly. “We just have to navigate through this.”

If the mine is built, Brazil Potash will sell 100% of the national production using the waterways to deliver the product to farmers.

The mine will be just 8 km from the Madeira River, and the cost of mining, processing and delivering the potash to the farmer is less than just the cost of transporting the imported potash, Simpson said.

The mine’s production could reach 2.4 million tonnes of potash per year, corresponding to around 22% of Brazil’s current demand, after three years of operation.

Brazil is the world’s second largest consumer of potash behind China, and its annual consumption is currently around 11 million tonnes.

(Reporting by Ana Mano; Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasília; Editing by Josie Kao)

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