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Conservation paradox: Large-scale mining waste in protected areas in two global hotspots, southeastern Brazil


Irreversible losses of natural areas and damage to ecosystem services are caused by large-scale mining. These effects are prominent in Minas Gerais, which is home to a mining industry with hundreds of tailings dams concentrated in global hotspots: the Cerrado and the Atlantic Forest. We present an overview of the spatial overlap between protected areas (PAs), priority conservation areas (PCAs), tailings dams, and their influence areas. A total of 218 dams accumulated environmental costs and liability that are represented by 2.24 thousand million m3 of tailings and industrial waste. Most dams (≈ 70%) are located in PCAs, 45 dams in conservation units, 58 in their respective buffer zones, and 51 in special protection areas. We have identified an urgent need to implement adequate public policies to establish management and monitoring mechanisms in PAs and PCAs and to address a scenario of high potential for socioenvironmental damage associated with tailings dams.

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Correspondence to Luciana Hiromi Yoshino Kamino.

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Kamino, L.H.Y., Pereira, E.O. & do Carmo, F.F. Conservation paradox: Large-scale mining waste in protected areas in two global hotspots, southeastern Brazil. Ambio 49, 1629–1638 (2020).

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  • Ecological disaster
  • Environmental footprints
  • Governance
  • Megadiversity
  • Tailings Dam