The Yanomami territory, in Roraima, is crossed by 75 airstrips, the largest number among indigenous lands (ILs) in the Amazon. The data is part of a survey carried out by Mapbiomas, which pointed out that a third of them (33.7%) are 5 km or less from a mine.
In the ranking of ILs with more airstrips, Raposa Serra do Sol, also in Roraima, took second place, with 58, followed by Kayapó (26), Munduruku (21), both in Pará, and Parque do Xingu ( 21), in Mato Grosso.
In the TI Munduruku, the relationship of proximity with illegal mining increases: 80% of the structures are 5 km or less away from a mine.
The survey was carried out based on the analysis of high resolution satellite data.
In all, MapBiomas identified 2,869 trails in the Amazon, with no distinction between authorized or unauthorized. The number, however, is more than twice the number in the records of Anac (National Civil Aviation Agency). Of this total, 28% (804 tracks) are within a protected area: 320 are located in indigenous lands and 498 inside conservation units.
Geologist Cesar Diniz, technical coordinator of mining mapping at MapBiomas, says that the correlation of these numbers with the advance of mining in the region is unequivocal. “Of the 5 ILs that have the most airstrips, 3 are the ones that also have the most mined area: Kayapó, Munduruku and Yanomami.”
Another study by Mapbiomas points out that, by 2021, 11,542 hectares in the Kayapó territory will have been taken over by mining. In Munduruku land, this number reaches 4,743 hectares and, in Yanomami, 1,556 hectares.
In the case of Conservation Units, the largest number of airstrips are in the Tapajós APA (156 runways), followed by the Amaná Flona (53), the Triunfo do Xingu APA (47) and the Paru State Forest (30). .
Diniz explains that, historically, runways were installed in protected forest areas to facilitate the arrival of help and health services to communities living in these regions, but that the nature of this infrastructure has changed.
“It is reasonable that some clues exist within ILs and UCs. What is not reasonable is that such a large number of them are close to mines. It is clear that their objective is no longer social and becomes to serve illegal mining” , it says.
The leading Amazonian states in the ranking of runways are Mato Grosso, with 1,062 runways, Pará, with 883, and Roraima, with 218. Pará is also home to the four cities with the most runways: Itaituba (255), São Félix Do Xingu ( 86), Altamira (83) and Jacareacanga (53).
“The municipalities with the greatest number of airstrips –not coincidentally– also have a historical relationship with gold mining”, points out the researcher.
As these activities are installed in regions with difficult land or river access, air transport is very important for logistics. At the same time, opening an airstrip in the middle of the forest is not an easy or cheap task.
“You don’t build a landing strip if your interest is to leave that region in three days. This infrastructure indicates a willingness to continue making constant trips to that region”, emphasizes Diniz. “Locating these clues is an important instrument for strangling mining operations, as it is through them that the equipment to operate this activity enters and it is through them that production leaves there.”
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