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Brazil expels illegal miners from Yanomami territory


ALTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Armed government officials from Brazilian justice, indigenous and environmental agencies began evicting thousands of illegal gold miners from Yanomami indigenous territory on Wednesday, citing widespread contamination of rivers, famine and disease brought to one of the most isolated groups in the world.

Those involved in the illegal gold dredging left the territory on foot. The operation could take months. It is believed that around 20,000 people engage in this activity, often using toxic mercury to separate the gold.

The authorities – the Brazilian environmental agency Ibama, with the support of the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples and the National Public Security Force, found a helicopter, an airplane, a bulldozer and makeshift pavilions and hangars and destroyed them . Two cannons and three boats containing 5,000 liters (1,320 gallons) of fuel were also seized. They also discovered a helicopter hidden in the forest and set it on fire.

Ibama established a checkpoint next to a Yanomami village on the Uraricoera River to disrupt the miners’ supply chain there. Officers seized the 12-meter (39-foot) boats, loaded with a ton of food, freezers, generators and internet antennas. Cargo will now supply Federal Agents. No more boats carrying fuel and equipment will be allowed to cross the blockade.

The large amount of supplies up the river could indicate that some of the gold miners are ignoring President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s promise to kick them out after years of neglect under his predecessor, Bolsonaro, who tried to legalize mining. activity.

Other miners, however, felt it best to return to town. On Tuesday, The Associated Press visited a miners’ camp along the Uraricoera River, accessible only by a three-hour drive down a dirt road. Dozens of prospectors arrived during the day, some of them after walking for days through the forest.

One of them, João Batista Costa, 61, told reporters that the Yanomami were starving and that recent emergency food deliveries had not been enough.

The federal government has declared a public health emergency for the Yanomami people, who are suffering from malnutrition and diseases such as malaria due to illegal mining.

A report released yesterday by the Ministry of Health revealed that gold diggers invaded four clinics inside Yanomami territory, leaving them inoperative. In the town of Boa Vista, where starving and sick natives have been evacuated to a temporary medical facility, there are 700 Yanomami, more than three times the capacity of the facility.

The gold diggers, who come from impoverished regions, such as the state of Maranhao in northeastern Brazil, usually walk through the forest in flip-flops, carrying only food and personal belongings in their backpacks. They sleep in hammocks in makeshift campsites.

An estimated 30,000 Yanomami live in Brazil’s largest indigenous territory, which covers an area roughly the size of Portugal and spans the states of Roraima and Amazonas in the northwestern corner of the country. Brazilian Amazon.

The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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