llegal gold mining activity has risen sharply over the last five years in Brazil’s indigenous Yanomami reservation in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest, a Reuters review of exclusive data shows. The Yanomami are the largest of South America’s tribes that remain relatively isolated from the outside world. More than 26,700 people live within the reservation, which is the size of Portugal.
Reuters worked with Earthrise Media, a non-profit group that analyzes satellite imagery, to plot the expansion of the mines across the Yanomami reservation. An analysis of these sites revealed that the number of mines has grown 20-fold over the past five years. Collectively, the mining areas identified in the reservation cover an area roughly the size of over 1,000 soccer fields.
The miners are wildcat illegal prospectors looking for gold along two rivers, the Uraricoera and the Mucajai.
Although the mining is small in scale compared to mass logging and agriculture, it is devastating to the environment. Trees and local habitats are destroyed and high concentrations of mercury, used in the extraction process, are released into the local environment.
(to be continued)