2019 Right Livelihood Laureate Davi Kopenawa of the Yanomami Indigenous people.

Illegal gold miners pose “immediate threat” to Indigenous peoples in Brazil, Right Livelihood warns

News 21.09.2022

Illegal gold miners in the Amazon region of Brazil often use violence to gain access to Indigenous lands, while their mining activities cause irreversible damage to the environment and health of affected peoples, Right Livelihood warned the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

Read our statement.

Addressing the UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights during the 51st session of the Council, our statement highlighted the existential danger posed by so-called wildcat miners or garimperos to Indigenous communities.

“Despite being protected on paper, the Amazon region has seen an exponential increase in illegal mining over the past 10 years, which is estimated to have grown by over 500 per cent under the blind eye of the authorities,” the statement warned.

This has also entailed a  whopping increase in mercury levels in waters around the Yanomami Indigenous people: today, the levels are 8,600 per cent higher than what is safe for human consumption.

At the same time, while mercy poisoning kills people slowly and silently, wildcat miners “pose an immediate threat” to the lives of Indigenous peoples as they use violence to gain access to their territories.

“The scale and frequency of violence has increased in recent years, and it is deeply concerning that miners are now equipped with automatic weapons and using criminal gangs to perpetrate violent acts,” we warned.

The current Brazilian government has done little to alleviate the situation – even worse, it has worked to dismantle existing legislation protecting Indigenous rights.

“It is fundamental that such a trend is not perpetuated further after the 2022 general elections,” our statement said, referring to Brazil’s upcoming general election scheduled for early October.

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