(Bloomberg) — Illegal gold and diamond mining is proliferating in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest and threatening South America’s largest group of native people who still live in relative isolation, the Yanomami.
Criminal mining groups are encroaching on the indigenous territory that straddles Brazil and Venezuela, polluting rivers, bringing diseases like Covid-19 and malaria, and stirring fears of a repeat of the brutal slaughter of 16 Yanomami by illegal prospectors in the 1990s, according to a report published Thursday by Brazilian conservation group Instituto Socioambiental and the Hutukara Yanomami and Wanasseduume Ye’kwana associations.
“They are coming in like starved beasts, looking for the wealth of our land,” Davi Kopenawa, chairman of the Hutukara Yanomami Association, said in a statement.
“They are advancing very fast. They are arriving in the middle of the Yanomami land. The prospectors are already reaching my home.”
The potential humanitarian disaster facing the Yanomami is just the latest red flag of deteriorating conditions in the world’s biggest rain forest under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who clashed with his counterpart Joe Biden during the U.S. presidential race last year over deforestation in the Amazon.
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