Brazil on Wednesday stripped a vast nature reserve in the Amazon of its protected status and opened up a part of the area for mining, BBC reported. The 46,450 square kilometre reserve is believed to be rich in minerals such as copper and gold.

President Michel Temer abolished the protected status of the National Reserve of Copper and Associates in a decree published on Wednesday, reported CNBC.

The country’s mining and energy ministry said the move will help create jobs, generate income and combat illegal mining. “The objective of the measure is to attract new investments, generate wealth for the country and employment and income for society, based on the precepts of sustainability,” the ministry said in a statement.

The government has opened under a third of the area for mining. “Permission to develop research and mining applies only to areas where there are no other restrictions, such as protection of native vegetation, conservation units, indigenous lands and areas in border strips,” the government said in a statement.

However, Opposition Senator Randolfe Rodrigues described the move as “the biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years”.