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ConflictsLatin America

Gold miners attack indigenous people in Brazil

May 27, 2021

Wildcat miners have reportedly burned down the home of a leader of the indigenous Munduruku people. Brazil's top court has already ruled against illegal mining on protected lands.

Aerial image of gold mines along a stream in the municipality of Jacareacanga, Pará, Brazil. Gustavo Basso/DW
Brazil's top court has ordered protection of the indigenous people. Image: Gustavo Basso/DW

Indigenous Munduruku people in Brazil said on Wednesday attacks by illegal gold miners on their leaders were continuing. 

A police operation had earlier attempted to remove the illegal squatting by miners on the land of the indigenous Munduruku and Yanomami people.

Flying through the Amazon rainforest

What happened in the attack on indigenous villages?

Miners fired at a village of the Munduruku group, and burned down the house of one of their leaders, Brazil's main indigenous organization said.


"Criminals are terrorizing the leaders of the Munduruku people for opposing illegal mining. In an act of terrorism they torched the home of (Munduruku leader) Maria Leusa Kaba and are continuing to threaten other people in reprisal for the Federal Police operation in the region to kick out invaders," said Sonia Guajajara, a leader of the Association of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples (APIB).

Police did not confirm the new attacks alleged by the indigenous people. 

What are authorities doing to prevent the attacks?

Brazil's top court had ordered the protection of indigenous groups, whose communities in the Amazon forest are threatened by wildcat mining.

Federal police launched an operation against illegal mining on land belonging to the Munduruku and Sai Cinza people near the town of Jacareacanga on Tuesday.

However, there were reports of protesting miners trying to destroy police vehicles and equipment, with authorites saying they were surprised "by a group of miners protesting the operation that protected indigenous lands."

Reinforcements have been sent to help police forces, and act as mediators to diffuse tensions. Governor Helder Barbalho of the Para state, where the attacks have been reported, said that he is "worried by the tense situation."

Why are tensions on the rise?

Clashes between miners and indigenous people in the Amazon have been occurring for decades, but have increased in the past few years. Violence has increased since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is supportive of mining in protected lands, came to power in 2019. 

Gold and diamond mining in the Amazon is a lucrative activity, but is extremely harmful to the environment. A Supreme Court ruling on Monday said the government must "immediately adopt all the necessary measures to protect the life, health and security of the indigenous people."

tg/rt (dpa, AFP, Reuters)