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Illegal Gold Rush in the Amazon Raises Risk to Indigenous People

  • Criminal groups get increasingly close to Yanomami communities
  • Study shows 30% surge of deforestation in their land in 2020
A section of burnt forest stands in the Amazonian state of Para.
A section of burnt forest stands in the Amazonian state of Para.Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg
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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.