Brazil’s Yanomami people victims of illegal gold rush in Amazon rainforest

In the northern Brazilian state of Roraima, more and more illegal gold miners are invading indigenous lands. This gold rush is accompanied by the blessing of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Our reporters Fanny Lothaire and Laura Damase investigated the illegal activities and met the Yanomami Indians who are fighting to defend their ancestral lands in the Amazon rainforest.

“There are 20,000 invaders on our land today! We are constantly afraid,” said Marinaldo, a Yanomami Indian chief from his threatened reserve. His land is located in the state of Roraima, in the far north of Brazil, in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.

The Yanomami – “human beings” in their ancestral language – have feared for their life since 2011 and the invasion of the “garimpeiros”, illegal gold miners who come to extract the precious metal hidden under a layer of Amazonian flora and fauna. Gold has become a major export from the State of Roraima, even if no legal mine is in activity.

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In Boa Vista, the capital of the state of Roraima, jewelry stores and stores selling raw gold are widespread. Federal police have arrested a few retailers to maintain the appearance, but the gold companies are well established despite their illegality.

In the streets of the city, we also meet dozens of Yanomami: whole families who decided to leave their land in the midst of danger and now endure a miserable existence.

In his fiery speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019, Bolsonaro stressed that the Amazon is not the heritage of humanity. During his mandate, he fully intended to legalize mining in these remote territories.

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