Brazil has opened up nearly a third of a vast national reserve in the Amazon to mining.
The area, which is thought to be rich in gold and other minerals, covers 17,800 square miles across the northern states of Amapa and Para – this is an area larger than Denmark.
A decree from President Michel Temer abolished the protected area, which is known as the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca).
Activists have voiced concerns that conservation and indigenous areas will be at risk and suggested the move was an attack on biodiversity, local people and the rainforest’s role as the ‘lungs of the world’.
Environmental group WWF has suggested a gold rush in the region could cause “irreversible damage” to the isolated cultures within it.
However, the Brazilian Government has claimed nine conservation and indigenous land areas within the area would continue to be legally protected.
In a statement the government said: “The objective of the measure is to attract new investments, generating wealth for the country and employment and income for society, always based on the precepts of sustainability.”
The impacts of forest policies can increase global net carbon dioxide emissions.