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Brazil Moves to Oust Miners from Indigenous Lands, Shore Up Support for Amazon Protection

Brazil’s federal police have launched a new raid on illegal gold miners operating in Indigenous Yanomami territory in the northern Amazon, officials said on Friday.

The invasion of miners has contributed to the spread of malaria among the Yanomami, with devastating consequences. Malarial infections have deprived villages of able-bodied men and women needed to hunt and tend plots of manioc and bananas, leading to food shortages. Miners have also polluted waters with mercury, which is used in gold mining. In recent weeks, images have emerged of malnourished Yanomami children with emaciated chests and distended bellies.

“This is a very severe humanitarian crisis,” Junior Hekurari Yanomami, head of the Yanomami and Ye’kuana Indigenous Health District Council told Yale Environment 360. “The worst in my lifetime.”

Earlier this week, special forces affiliated with Brazil’s environment and Indigenous agencies launched a campaign against the intruders, destroying a helicopter, an airplane, and a bulldozer, The Guardian reported. The federal police are now joining the effort against the miners, Reuters reports.

“The main focus of the operation is fully removing non-Indigenous people from the Yanomami territory,” Humberto Freire, head of the federal police environment department, said in a statement. Police said they aim to “completely eradicate illegal mining” in the region.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House Friday. The leaders are expected to commit to “strengthening cooperation against environmental crime,” Reuters reports. The U.S. is also considering making its first contribution to a fund aimed at preserving forests and protecting Indigenous lands in the Amazon.

ALSO ON YALE E360

How Illegal Mining Caused a Humanitarian Crisis in the Amazon

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