Brazil Raids Illegal Amazon Miners

President Lula da Silva, who took office just over a month ago, is targeting tens of thousands of ore and gold miners in the territory of the Yanomami people in the rainforest.

Brazil’s President Lula Da Silva, center, in November 2022 at the COP27 U.N. climate meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (UNclimatechange, Flickr)

By Julia Conley
Common Dreams

With Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva warning his administration “will not allow illegal mining on Indigenous lands,” the government announced Wednesday that environmental special forces destroyed at least one helicopter, an airplane, and a bulldozer used by “mining mafias” in the territory of the Yanomami people in the Amazon rainforest this week. 

The raids aimed at removing illegal mining operations involving tens of thousands of ore and gold miners from the region began on Monday, just over a month after the leftist president, known as Lula, took office. 

The Guardian reported that the special forces set up a base near the Uraricoera River, which illegal miners used during right-wing former President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration. 

Bolsonaro condemned the Yanomami people’s control of the land, the largest Indigenous territory in Brazil, and encouraged deforestation and mining in the Amazon. Roughly 25,000 illegal miners poured into the region during his four-year term. 

The forces have seized aircraft, boats, and weapons from miners this week. 

“We are in the process of removing illegal miners from Roraima,” Lula said on social media Tuesday, referring to Brazil’s northernmost state. “The situation that the Yanomami find themselves [in] near the [mining camp] is degrading.”

The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) and the newly-created Indigenous affairs ministry took part in coordinating the raids, with Defense Minister José Múcio monitoring the operation. 

Sonia Guajajara, who was appointed by Lula to be Brazil’s first minister of Indigenous affairs, surveyed the region, where nearly 30,000 Yanomami live, ahead of the operation. 

“The Yanomami want peace—that is all they want,” Guajajara told GloboNews. “And this is what we are going to give them.”

In addition to degrading the landscape and polluting the waterways of the Brazilian Amazon, illegal mining in the Yanomami land has had a “devastating impact” on the health of the community, Greenpeace said last week:

“The use of mercury in the activity poisons the land the Indigenous people use to plant their food and the rivers they use to fish. By poisoning the water, mercury also gets into the people’s bodies, causing serious health problems, and even death.

Besides that, the presence of the miners in the Indigenous territory exposes those living there to other diseases. An explosion in cases of malaria and malnutrition, due to the lack of access to food and traditional ways of production in the Yanomami land, has been a serious threat to the lives of the Indigenous people, especially children. 11,530 confirmed cases of malaria were recorded in 2022 alone.”

At least 570 Yanomami children reportedly died of curable diseases during Bolsonaro’s administration, and dozens of children have been airlifted to hospitals in recent weeks, suffering from malnutrition and malaria. 

“More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw… was a genocide,” Lula said last month after a visit to the region. “A premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government impervious to the suffering of the Brazilian people.”

On Tuesday, the president said his administration will “restructure everything that exists from the point of view of controlling our Indigenous lands, the environment.”

“We are going to try to create a new dynamic,” he added, “to have the results that Brazilian society wants.”

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

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7 comments for “Brazil Raids Illegal Amazon Miners

  1. CaseyG
    February 10, 2023 at 12:50

    Mark Twain once wrote that,” every man over 40 is responsible for his own face.” Oh, that seems so very true.

    Many of the GOP have ugly faces, and around the world Bolsornaro looks the same, but then , so does Governor De Santis—although I thank De Satan is a better name.
    How can a person tell a lying face? Turn the sound down and take a good look!

    I truly admire Lula de Silva and wish that we had more models like him in this often bizarre world of current government. Oh and another fun thing to do is to turn down the sound on many in the news—it’s amazing how clearly that when the sound is turned off —– we can see the intent much more clearly with only reactions of the face muscles—it’s truly amazing.

  2. Paula
    February 9, 2023 at 23:08

    Very encouraging good news for a change. Stay strong.

  3. February 9, 2023 at 22:39

    Now if Canada and the USA can muster up the same courage and concern?

  4. Frederic Smith
    February 9, 2023 at 15:34

    As a distant Canadian observer my best wishes and congratulations are for Sr. Lula da Silva. Perhaps he can manage to stay around long enough to introduce some meaningful change in Brazilian politics. Seems he is off to a good start by putting a stop to the mindless destruction of Indigenous land and its people.

    Looking back one wonders what kind of childhood did Bolsonaro suffer.

  5. CaseyG
    February 9, 2023 at 13:05

    Thank you Lula for your humanity. But to America—-why is Leonard Peltier even in jail at all?

    WAKE UP Biden and free this man—-and if you think that you are awake—WHY are you treating people so badly? This includes Julian Assange too!

    Here’s your message President Biden and this is your homework: “We the People of the United States , in order to form a more perfect union…” work on that!

  6. Valerie
    February 9, 2023 at 04:17

    Good for you Snr. da Silva. Turf them out. They are a destructive blot on the landscape.

  7. HelenB
    February 8, 2023 at 23:23

    Lula, an amazing guy. Has been through a lot. I hope Brazil can continue with more leaders like him. Best wishes for the Amazon rainforest, and for all of South America–peace, clean living, prosperity.

Comments are closed.