Home LATEST NEWS Illegal gold mining on the rise in indigenous territory in Brazil

Illegal gold mining on the rise in indigenous territory in Brazil


The area affected by the garimpothe Brazilian term used for these gold mines exploited in an artisanal way, increased by 46% last year compared to 2020 in Yanomami territory, to reach 3272 hectares in total.

This is the largest annual increase since records began in 2018, according to the Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY) report.

We’re having the worst time since [le territoire de] this indigenous community was demarcated and homologated 30 years agodenounces this association in its document of more than one hundred pages based on satellite images and interviews with indigenous populations.

The territory of the Yanomami extends over 9.7 million hectares in northern Brazil, near the border with Venezuela, and is believed to be home to more than 29,000 indigenous people of this ethnic group.

Beyond deforestation and river pollution, gold panning in Yanomami territory has caused an explosion in cases of malaria and other infectious diseasesadds the report, also referring to a frightening increase in violence against Indigenous peopleincluding rape.

Testimonies quoted by the document evoke the difficulties encountered by the indigenous populations to feed themselves due to the destruction of the tropical forest where they normally find their means of subsistence. Some find themselves forced to work in illegal gold mines in exchange for meals.

The testimonies also tell that artisanal gold miners, often linked to organized crime, ask families to deliver young girls to them for sex in exchange for food.

Yanomami in their house.

Among the Yanomami, families generally live in communal houses.

Photo: Getty Images/UniversalImagesGroup

Yanomami women see miners as terrible threatsinsists the association HAY, which denounces a climate of permanent terror.

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Brazilian government authorities did not respond to requests from Agence France-Presse (AFP) to comment on the report.

Federal prosecutors have said they will investigate the report’s allegations with a view to filing possible criminal charges. They also indicated that they had already filed an appeal last month to force the government to resume protection actions and police operations against illegal miners in Yanomami territory.

Illegal gold panning has intensified in recent years in the Amazon with the surge in the price of gold. This activity caused the deforestation of 125 km2 in 2021.

Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.


Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro is accused by indigenous defense associations of wanting to quickly get parliament to approve laws aimed at authorizing mining activities in indigenous territories.

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