Escape of miners raises concern about invasion of other indigenous lands


In recent days, photos and videos have recorded the escape of garimpeiros from the Yanomami Indigenous Land (TI), after the announcement that the security forces would be mobilized to remove the invaders. At the same time that the disintrusion of the territory is essential to solve the humanitarian crisis that affects the region, the fate of these people raises concerns.

One of the fears is that this will worsen the situation of invasion in other protected areas.

“With this unbridled exit, these miners can be displaced to other indigenous lands, both here in Roraima, like Raposa Serra do Sol, and to other states where there is a lot of mining, like Pará, in [Terra Indígena] Mundurucu and Kayapó”, points out Lucia Alberta Andrade, Director of Promotion of Sustainable Development at Funai (National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples).

ISA (Instituto Socioambiental) lawyer Juliana de Paula Batista says that, to prevent something like this from happening, it is necessary for the state government to have an action plan to deal with these people, but that it is unequivocal that they need to leave the TI.

“This tragedy that we are seeing shows why the peoples need to have exclusive use of the land and that that territory is really necessary to guarantee their physical and cultural security”, he says.

Another possibility is that these invaders end up coming into contact with isolated peoples. Andrade explains that the Funai team in the field has been monitoring this movement because even within Yanomami territory there are ethnic groups that have no contact with other people.

“There are three regions within the TI where there is confirmation of isolated peoples, who have never even had contact with the Yanomami”, she says, adding that evidence has also been found of five other isolated peoples in the region.

The main focus of concern, in this case, is that the proximity of miners could bring pathogens to these populations, which do not have immunity against many diseases. There is also a fear that this contact will lead to confrontations between the indigenous people and the invaders.

“Because of this, any contact with people can trigger genocide”, says Andrade.

The federal government has been adopting a policy of not confronting prospectors. On Monday (6), the Minister of Justice, Flávio Dino, stated that this stance would prevent the use of force “without planning” from worsening the conflict situation between criminals and indigenous people.

“We are expecting that, when the coercive police operations began, 80% of that contingent of 15,000 people had left Yanomami territory,” said Dino.

He also highlighted that the main target of the investigations are the financiers, the owners of illegal mines and those who launder money. “Of course we have the perpetrators of environmental crimes — these people are being identified by images and will be the target of the police investigation”, he said.

This Wednesday (8), the Minister of Defense, José Mucio Monteiro, also stated that there is a concern “not to harm innocents” during the actions.

Among the environmental crimes that, in theory, could be imputed to the invaders are those of illegal extraction of minerals, preventing or hindering the natural regeneration of the forest and causing harmful pollution to human health or fauna. The law that governs this type of crime, however, does not have high penalties: in general, they vary from six months to four years of imprisonment and a fine.

In the case of financiers, other laws could also apply, such as that of criminal organization, which provides for imprisonment of three to eight years, in addition to a fine.

“The people who are leaving the Yanomami TI are the tip of the iceberg, the last instance of a huge mining scheme, millionaire, which is coordinated and financed by very rich businessmen”, recalls Iami Gerbase, journalist and activist of the organization for the defense of indigenous rights Survival International.

“The machinery is very expensive, the planes are very expensive, the helicopters are very expensive. That’s why the miners are asking for help to get out of there, because they can’t afford it”, she points out.

According to Dino, invaders asked for the support of the federal government to leave the indigenous land. They allege difficulty in leaving the region since the Air Force started to control the airspace and prohibited aircraft used in criminal activity from flying over the territory. The measures also caused the price of flights to skyrocket.

The ISA lawyer points out that this situation makes the dimension of these illegal mining operations explicit. “If these people don’t have the financial conditions to get out of there, they also couldn’t get in.”

She explains that this situation involves everything from professional prospectors to workers whose rights are being exploited. “This all needs to be investigated by the security forces to assess the responsibility of each one. But these people are often also subjected to cycles of exploitation, of slave labor, receiving starvation wages.”

Batista points out that in order to reach the owners of the money, it will be necessary to collect statements and talk to these people who are fleeing, since they are the ones who know how this criminal organization works.

For her, the focus of operations on financiers is a medium and long-term solution to put an end to mining. “From the moment you manage to dismantle this criminal system with whom you finance it, there is no more money to keep taking these people to indigenous lands”, she summarizes.

You May Also Like

Recommended for you

Immediate Peak