The Brazilian government has announced a partnership with Elon Musk’s Starlink company to operate satellites in the Amazon rainforest.
The plan was announced on May 20, during Musk’s visit to Brazil, where he met President Jair Bolsonaro and five ministers, as well as 10 local businessmen at a luxury hotel in rural São Paulo.
At the end of the event, Bolsonaro and Communications Minister Fabio Faria briefly addressed the press, outlining how the Starlink satellites, which are expected to go into service over the Amazon in the coming months, could be useful for providing broadband to schools and monitoring fires and logging in the rainforest.
Musk said on Twitter that Starlink would connect 19,000 schools in rural areas. In a press release, the Department of Communications reproduced the content of the tweet, adding that technical and specific investment details around the partnership will be “discussed at a later date, with public and private sector actors involved.” No contract has been signed. occasionally.
The partnership follows telecoms agency Anatel’s announcement in February that it had granted Starlink, a company owned by spaceflight company SpaceX, the right to operate in Brazil, with operating rights. running until 2027. The agency considered granting the rights until 2033 but shortened the time. duration of the authorization taking into account the “pioneering nature” of the undertaking and the “possible unforeseen impacts”.
At the time of Anatel’s announcement, the company said it planned to put 4,408 satellites into orbit as part of its plan to build an interconnected satellite-based Internet network. The company will not be entitled to protection and may not cause service interference with other satellite systems.
Prior to the latest developments, Musk, SpaceX Chairman Gwynne Shotwell and Minister Faria had met in November 2021 during a technical mission to the United States to discuss plans for connectivity and the use of next-generation technology. in the Amazon.
Bolsonaro has come under fire for his administration’s handling of environmental issues in Brazil. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased by 64% between January and March 2022 compared to the same period a year ago, according to the national space agency Inpe.
The head of state stressed that Musk’s visit to Brazil is an “important step” for the country and that the technology will show the “truth” of how the Amazon is preserved. “Of course, there are niches for fires and irregular deforestation. But the arrival of satellites will help us preserve [the rainforest]”, he said.
“Now we also need to develop this region, which is very rich in biodiversity and mineral wealth,” the president added. Bolsonaro offered the possibility of exploiting niobium reserves in Brazil to the billionaire, and noted that studies are underway to add graphene to create a super battery.
However, Brazil’s lithium reserve, which is the seventh largest in the world, is more attractive to Musk since his company Tesla turned to lithium iron phosphate batteries for its electric vehicles.
Elected via social media in 2018, Bolsonaro described Musk as a defender of freedom and that the businessman’s plan to buy Twitter for $44 billion announced in April was a “breath of hope”. .