This story excerpt was translated from Portuguese. To read the original story in full, visit Mongabay. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.
- An increasing number of young Indigenous people in Brazil’s Yanomami Indigenous Territory are leaving their communities behind and turning to illegal gold mining, lured by the promise of small fortunes and a new lifestyle.
- Work in the mining camps ranges from digging and removing tree roots to operating as boat pilots ferrying gold, supplies, and miners to and from the camps; recruits receive nearly $1,000 per boat trip.
- The structures, traditions, and health of Indigenous societies are torn apart by the proximity of the gold miners, and the outflow of the young generation further fuels this vicious cycle, say Indigenous leaders.
- Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of authorities monitoring the area, illegal mining in the region has increased drastically, with 20,000 miners now operating illegally in the territory.
WAIKAS, Brazil—From up above, long, massive, yellowish stains tear apart the green blanket of the Amazon. In the northern part of the Yanomami Indigenous Territory near Brazil’s border with Venezuela, these illegal gold mines, known locally as garimpos, blanket the banks of the Uraricoera River.
The pilot flies his Cessna aircraft low but doesn’t get too close. He fears the armed garimpeiros, or gold diggers, on the ground as much as the other small planes swooping through the tree canopy to avoid the police radars and supply the mining camps.
On the ground, the Indigenous village of Waikas is in sight. This is home to the Yek’wana, one of the eight ethnic groups who live in this territory the size of Portugal.
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