‘The river is dead’: is a mine polluting the water of Brazil’s Xikrin tribe? – by Naira Hofmeister and José Cícero da Silva (The Guardian – May 15, 2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/

Federal courts are battling to shut down a nickel mining plant said to be contaminating the Cateté river – a charge the company denies

The Xikrin, who have lived alongside the Cateté river in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil for centuries, have a mantra: “The river is our life.” Surrounded by an abundance of plant species, they swim and bathe here.

To fish, the tribe use timbó, a toxic vine that reduces the concentration of oxygen in the water, forcing the fish to come to the surface, where they are shot with arrows. “If we use hooks to fish, only one of our families will eat fish,” explains former tribal chief Onkray Xikrin. “But with timbó the whole village can eat.”

But the River Cateté is dying, and with it the way of life of the Xikrin. In 2010 Mineração Onça Puma, a company owned by the mining company Vale, began extracting nickel in the nearby hills, which have tributaries flowing into the Cateté. Vale is one of the world’s largest producers of nickel.

Around this time, the Xikrin who were diving into the river say they began suffering itchy skin and burning eyes. The tribe also noticed a decline in the quantity and diversity of fish.

In 2015, tests by a professor at the Federal University of Pará found traces of nickel in the sediment of the river at almost double the safe level downstream from the mines, but no trace upstream. The tests also found unsafe levels of iron, chromium and copper.

For the rest of this article: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/15/brazil-xikrin-catete-river-amazon

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