Illegal gold mining in the north Amazonian territory of Brazil’s indigenous Munduruku people has led to more than half of several hundred people tested showing unsafe mercury levels in their bodies, including children, health researchers say.
That is a particular worry to human rights defenders, as the country’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro pushes plans to introduce or expand mining and farming in protected areas of the world’s largest rainforest. That would include into indigenenous territory, where mining is currently forbidden by Brazil’s constitution.
The spread of mines — with mercury used to extract gold from other minerals — is also helping drive Amazon deforestation, which has soared 22% in the last year to the highest levels since 2006, a government report showed last month.
The accelerating destruction comes despite Bolsonaro’s insistence his government is serious about protecting the rainforest, considered crucial to staving off catastrophic climate change.
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