Social Issues

Brazil authorities start expelling illegal miners from Yanomami reservation

Sao Paulo, Feb 8 (EFE).- Brazilian authorities said Wednesday they have begun expelling thousands of wildcat miners from the Yanomami indigenous reservation, a vast, remote territory in the northwestern Amazonian state of Roraima.

The operation to recover control of that region kicked off on Monday and is being carried out by Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) agents with support from the National Indigenous People Foundation (Funai) and National Public Security Force officers.

Ibama said in a statement that through Tuesday night the agents had destroyed a helicopter, a small plane and a bulldozer, as well as other equipment that had been used by nearly 15,000 illegal miners.

Those miners, who are associated with well-armed criminal gangs, are accused of provoking a humanitarian crisis that threatens the very survival of the Yanomami people.

The authorities also confiscated two weapons and three 12-meter-long (40-foot-long) speedboats that authorities will now use to lend logistical support to their operation.

Brazilian authorities have set up a base camp on the Uraricoera River to cut off the flow of supplies to the illegal mines and they plan to set up similar camps at other key points of that jungle-clad region.

Brazil’s air force also has deployed planes in a bid to block flights by illegal miners in that region near the Venezuelan border.

In recent days, pressure from authorities has forced thousands of wildcat miners and their families to abandon the constitutionally prohibited gold mining camps they had set up inside the Yanomami reservation.

An Efe photographer witnessed a group of around 30 people leaving one of the makeshift mines erected in the middle of the rainforest.

An estimated 20,000 wildcat miners invaded the Yanomami territory during the 2019-2023 administration of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who often complained that too much of the country’s land had been set aside for the indigenous peoples.

Bolsonaro, an admirer of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime, chafed at the constitutional prohibition against extractive industry on indigenous land and effectively suspended enforcement of environmental regulations in Amazonia, resulting in a dramatic increase in deforestation.

Last week, Bolsonaro’s successor, recently inaugurated center-left President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ordered the wildcat miners to leave the Yanomami reservation, Brazil’s largest indigenous territory.

Lula’s administration declared a health emergency on the reserve on Jan. 20 due to the severe malnutrition and illnesses suffered by a large majority of the Yanomami population, many of whom have been poisoned by the toxic substances used in mining.

Brazil’s air force has distributed 75 tons of food and medicine to indigenous hamlets and has airlifted dozens of people to a field hospital set up in Boa Vista, Roraima’s capital. EFE


Related Articles

Back to top button