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The invasion of the ‘garimpo’: 300 illegal mining rafts are installed in a river in the Brazilian Amazon in search of gold

Posted: Nov 25, 2021 17:28 GMT

Greenpeace denounces that the situation “is out of control” and that the slowness of the authorities in reacting shows the fragility of the control in the area.

It started with the rumor that there was gold in the Madeira river, one of the main rivers in the Brazilian Amazon, and for 15 days hundreds of dredging boats with ‘garimpeiros (illegal miners)’ have invaded a traditional community, which has ignited the alarms of the environmental protection bodies.

The photographs and recordings show a shocking scene. Hundreds of boats placed in line next to each other in full activity and using machinery to extract gold from the bottom of the river in the community of Rosarinho, in the municipalities of Autazes, just over 100 kilometers from Manaus, the state capital. And they do without environmental license and in broad daylight.

“What we are seeing now is a situation completely out of control. We have 300 rafts placed at a point on the Madeira River in front of a traditional community, “Danicley de Aguiar, spokesperson for Greenpeace’s Amazon campaign, told RT.

Many of the ‘garimpeiros’ come from cities such as Humaitá, in the same state, where, according to the NGO, they have acted for many years with “the support of businessmen and politicians” who promote this activity.

With 110.59 tons of gold sold for 4.9 million dollars, Brazil ranks sixth among the countries that most traded this precious metal in 2020. Of that amount, at least 17% (equivalent to 19.12 tons ) does not have any proof, that is, it is extracted illegally.

Environmental damage

The massive arrival of boats to the Rosarinho community drew the attention of the residents, who despite receiving the news of the existence of gold with emotion, were also concerned about environmental damage, such as the contamination of the river by mercury.

The work is carried out using dredgers, teams that excavate the bottom of the river in search of this precious metal. Afterwards, all the collected material is filtered and the water is returned to the river, which pollutes and impacts the environment and communities.

Aguiar highlights that the Madeira River, which is home to at least 1,000 species of fish already identified, is the richest in the world in terms of biodiversity. “It is not just any river. We are talking about a very important river for the balance of the Amazon basin (…) It is about a giant that is dying with the hydroelectric plants and the epidemic of ‘garimpo’ that was never contained, “he says.

“The authorities are taking a long time to react. 300 rafts do not accumulate overnight. This shows the fragility of control in this area.”

After the different agencies got into a discussion about who should take action on the matter and the Public Ministry gave a period of 30 days for the corresponding agencies to carry out some action, finally, Vice President Hamilton Mourao reported this Thursday that the Federal Police and the Navy are preparing an operation in the area.

“Lack of control”

“The authorities are taking a long time to react. They do not accumulate 300 rafts from one day to the next. This shows the fragility of control in this area. There is no justification for it to continue to be maintained. In addition, it is close to the capital of the Amazon where they are located. all the institutions and security forces, “Aguiar denounces.

In 2017, in a similar operation, the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), also on the Madeira River, ended with a violent response from the ‘garimpeiros’ who attacked the agency’s facilities.

“From then on, the inspection that was already fragile became practically non-existent and in the Bolsonaro government this situation increased exponentially,” says the activist.

"Accomplices of Amazonian destruction": 17% of the gold exported by Brazil is illegally mined (and these countries buy the most)"Accomplices of Amazonian destruction": 17% of the gold exported by Brazil is illegally mined (and these countries buy the most)

The beginning of the mobilizations of the ‘garimpeiros’ this November occurred when world leaders participated in the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow (Scotland), where Brazil promised to end illegal deforestation, attributed mainly to illegal activities of mining and livestock, through control patrols.

But the reality is that with the loss of 13,235 square kilometers of rainforest, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon this year reached its most critical point since 2006.

“The whole world is looking for an agreement to stop the climate crisis, but once again Brazil sends a bad signal. When it comes to protecting the Amazon, we need more actions and less speeches. It is necessary to romper with the economy of destruction“, he concludes.

Marta Miera

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Donna Miller

Donna is one of the oldest contributors of Gruntstuff and she has a unique perspective with regards to Science which makes her write news from the Science field. She aims to empower the readers with the delivery of apt factual analysis of various news pieces from Science. Donna has 3.5 years of experience in news-based content creation, and she is now an expert at it. She loves journalism, and that is the reason, she moved from a web content writer to a News writer, and she is loving it. She is a fun-loving woman who has very good connections with every team member. She makes the working environment cheerful which improves the team’s work productivity.

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