Yanomami tribe: Police catch fleeing illegal smugglers from indigenous territory in Brazil
Telegraph, 09 Feb 2023
Armed government officials with Brazil's justice, Indigenous and environment ministries pressed illegal gold miners out of Yanomami Indigenous territory Wednesday, citing widespread river contamination, famine and disease they have brought to one of the most isolated groups in the world.
People involved in illegal gold dredging streamed away from the territory on foot. The operation could take months. There are believed to be some 20,000 people engaged in the activity, often using toxic mercury to separate the gold. An estimated 30,000 Yanomami people live in Brazil's largest Indigenous territory, which covers an area roughly the size of Portugal and stretches across Roraima and Amazonas states in the northwest corner of Brazil's Amazon.
The authorities _ the Brazilian environmental agency Ibama, with support from the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples and the National Guard _ found an airplane, a bulldozer, and makeshift lodges and hangars, and destroyed them _ as permitted by law. Two guns and three boats with 5,000 liters (1,320 gallons) of fuel were seized. They also discovered a helicopter hidden in the forest and set it ablaze.
Ibama established a checkpoint next to a Yanomami village on the Uraricoera River to interrupt the miners' supply chain there. Agents seized the 12-meter (39-foot) boats, loaded with a ton of food, freezers, generators, and internet antennas. The cargo will now supply the federal agents. No more boats carrying fuel and equipment will be allowed to proceed past the blockade.
The large amount of supplies bound upriver could indicate some of the gold miners were ignoring President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's promise to expel them after years of neglect under his predecessor, Bolsonaro, who tried to legalize the activity.
Other miners, however, sensed it was better to return to the city. On Tuesday, The Associated Press visited a makeshift port alongside the Uraricoera River, accessible only by three-hour drive on a dirt road. Dozens of gold miners arrived over the course of the day, some of them after walking for days through the forest, en route to state capital Boa Vista.
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