RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Officials in Brazil’s largest state are facing mounting pressure to crackdown on illegal gold mining in the Amazon rainforest where thousands of workers are destroying ecologically sensitive land, according to the Amazonas state prosecutor’s office.
Since 2007, thousands of miners have descended upon Apui in northwestern Brazil in the so-called “New El Dorado” hoping to strike rich but in the process destroying 14,000 hectares of jungle by cutting down trees and poisoning rivers with mercury.
In a drive to close these illegal mines, prosecutors are now suing Brazil’s environment enforcement agency, the Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), and other government departments which they say have failed to stop ecological crimes in illicit mines.
IBAMA and other government agencies dispute those allegations. “We want to suspend all (mining) actions on this 14,000 hectares,” Amazonas state prosecutor Leonardo Galiano told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.
“We want the government to start campaigns against these environmental crimes.” With Brazil’s suffering through its worst recession in a century and high global gold prices, illegal miners have polluted the area with mercury and other chemicals to separate gold from grit while authorities have failed to enforce the law, the prosecutor said.
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