Illegal goldminers invade Yanomami land

December 11, 2007

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More than a thousand illegal goldminers have invaded the land of the Yanomami Indians in Brazilian Amazonia.

The alarm was raised by Yanomami living close to the areas where the miners are operating, and their presence was confirmed when a military plane flew over the area at Yanomami’s request.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Yanomami suffered hugely from goldminers invading their land. The miners shot them, destroyed villages, and exposed them to diseases to which they had no immunity. Twenty percent of the Yanomami died in just seven years. After a long international campaign led Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, the Pro Yanomami Commission (CCPY) and Survival, Yanomami land was finally demarcated as the ‘Yanomami Park’ in 1992 and the miners were expelled.

The head of Brazil’s Indian Affairs Department (FUNAI) for the state of Roraima, Gonzalo Teixeira, says the new wave of miners will be removed from the area in the new year. ‘The presence of the goldminers has greatly increased the pollution of the rivers and the incidence of illness among the Indigenous people, due to frequent contact,’ says Teixeira.

Renowned leader and shaman Davi Yanomami raised the issue of illegal goldmining during a visit to the UK and Germany in October. He wrote to both British Prime Minster Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, ‘My Yanomami people are suffering and our future is threatened. Our land is being invaded by goldminers who pollute the rivers and bring in diseases. Yanomami are starting to die.’