Wildcat miners start fleeing Yanomami territory
Feb. 7, 2023
Illegal gold miners in the Brazil’s Indigenous Yanomami territory are asking authorities to help them leave, ahead of a planned military operation to evict them from the area where mining is banned by the country’s constitution, reports Reuters.
More than 20,000 miners have occupied the country’s largest Indigenous protected area in the Amazon, causing widespread environmental destruction, violence and an acute health crisis among the Yanomamis, estimated to be about 28,000 in number. Illegal miners have poisoned their water supplies with mercury and triggered a food crisis by destroying forest.
Police opened an investigation into crimes including genocide on the reservation last month, after images of starving Yanomami children shook Brazil.
Justice Minister Flavio Dino said officials were moving more than 500 police and soldiers into place for an operation to evict the miners, which he said would start later this week. (AFP)
The leader of a wildcat mining group called on the government to airlift miners from the area or lift a no-fly zone to allow them to fly out on small planes from clandestine airstrips.
Thousands of miners have already begun fleeing the area, some reportedly trekking out on foot — up-to a 30 day journey — or crowding onto boats. There have been reports of conflict between fleeing miners and Indigenous people. Some of the miners that are beginning to leave the Yanomami reservation are expected to head across the border into neighboring French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana.
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