The Brazilian Amazon, a “promised land,” is experiencing a surge in illegal mining activities.

Spread the love


Illegal mining has become rampant in the Brazilian Amazon and is causing severe environmental damage. Garimpeiros, illegal miners, work in small groups digging for precious minerals, mostly copper and gold, in dangerous conditions. Webson Nunes, 28, is a garimpeiro who works with four colleagues in a wildcat copper mine outside Canaa dos Carajas, a small city at the edge of the Brazilian Amazon that has become a boom town in recent years thanks to mining.


The ‘Promised Land’ Canaa is a place of extremes: At one end sits mining giant Vale, which runs one of the world’s biggest open-air mines called S11D, that made the city the richest in Brazil in 2020 in GDP per capita. At the other end are an estimated 100 illegal mines like the one where Nunes is employed, bootstrap operations where “garimpeiros” make a living digging holes in the earth, living on constant alert in case of a raid. Nunes says he sees it as just another job, albeit a lucrative one. The mine owner pays him 150 reais ($30) a day, a nice salary in these parts.

The Cost of Illegal

Mining Illegal mines make around $800 per metric ton of copper they sell on the black market. This mine typically produces more than that in a day, the miners told AFP. Authorities say the copper mined illegally in Canaa mainly gets exported to China. Police say they have also detected illegal gold mines in the area, which cause greater environmental damage because of the mercury used to separate gold from soil.

The Crackdown

Illegal Mining Canaa’s population has boomed along with its economy. Since 2016, the town has nearly tripled in size, from 26,000 inhabitants to 75,000. Under Bolsonaro, wildcat miners were in advanced talks with the federal mining agency to get legal status for their work. However, Lula’s victory put an end to that. Since taking office in January, Lula has cracked down on illegal mining in the world’s biggest rainforest.

Police have staged six raids in the Canaa region since August 2022, unearthing what they called “severe environmental damage.” The police typically destroy miners’ operations, flooding their mine shafts and seizing or burning their equipment. But it does little to stop them: The same miners can sometimes be seen back at work the next day.

Garimpeiros’ Plight

Garimpeiros say it is unjust that Vale, the world’s biggest iron ore producer, has a monopoly on mining rights on local land, but uses just 13 percent of it. Getting authorization for small-scale mines is nearly impossible, they say.

Genivaldo Casadei, a garimpeiro leader, is treasurer of a local small-scale miners’ cooperative trying to win legal status for their work. If wildcat mining were regulated, it would create jobs and tax revenue, and Canaa could be the richest city in the world, he says. But the miners work in secret, knowing that the police could arrive at any moment. They feel they are just workers trying to feed their families and not criminals, and they see no other option in life.

SOURCE: Ref – Brazil AFP

Views:1021 5
Website | + posts

Whether writing about complex technical topics or breaking news stories, my writing is always clear, concise, and engaging. My dedication to my craft and passion for storytelling have earned me a reputation as a highly respected article writer.

Spread the love