Brazilian Government Crackdown on illegal Gold Mining Activity

Brazil is clamping down on illegal mining activity across the Amazon basin. Acting on information supplied by indigenous tribes Brazil’s military, backed by the police, took out a large criminal gold mining network operating in the dense forests of the Tapajos basin destroying mining equipment and raiding the offices of local traders. Concern is now being raised about reprisals against the indigenous population who fight to protect their culture and lands from exploitation and the hands of illegal mining organisations.

The latest raid on unlicensed mining activities involved the coordination of several government agencies and local tribes. Vehicles responsible for clearing forestation and digging large toxic pools within the Crepori National Forest were destroyed and illegal mining organisations were fined $13m for the forest destruction and for polluting local waterways with mercury, endangering both wildlife and human populations.

The regions indigenous tribes have long protested against illegal mining on protected land and have attempted to drive miners from the region, gaining media attention in the process. One indigenous tribe, the Munduruku’s Ipereg Ayu movement have issued an ultimatum for miners to depart their protected lands.

This latest operation has revealed the scope of Brazil’s illegal mining and how it has become ingrained in local economies, with between 50-70% of economic activity stemming for the illegal gold mining industry, meaning that government raids are not popular with everyone in the region. Threats have been made to local tribe leaders due to their opposition to the illegal mining trade and calls have been made for the government to now protect the indigenous population and offer alternative opportunities for those that have become reliant on the illegal trade for their livelihoods.

Despite the recent action by law enforcement agencies illegal gold mining activity is still continuing at numerous sites on protected land highlighting the extent of the problem, with indigenous leaders calling for action to be sustained to achieve the desired result.

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