Yanomami Indigenous people denounce return of miners to their territory in northern Brazil

By November 22, 2023

São Paulo, Brazil – Indigenous associations representing the Yanomami people in northern Brazil are denouncing the return of land grabbers to the territory, nine months after the government began a major operation to clear the area of non-Indigenous people.

In February, teams from Brazil’s Army, Air Force, Federal Police and environmental agencies were deployed to the largest Indigenous reserve in Brazil, after cases of severe malnutrition amongst children and the elderly in the region were exposed. Images of the suffering caused outrage throughout Brazil and abroad.

Read more: Brazil’s humanitarian crisis exposed suffering of Yanomami people under Bolsonaro government

The operation was meant to expel around 20,000 illegal miners and land grabbers operating within the territory. Mining activity in the region, which increased under former President Jair Bolsonaro, led to widespread water and soil contamination, killing aquatic and terrestrial animals and poisoning local Indigenous populations. In addition, there were reports of violence against Indigenous people at the hands of land grabbers, including reports of assaults and rapes.

On November 13, a post made on Tik Tok and removed shortly after it went online, showed a helicopter flying over a village which, according to the Urihi Yanomami Association, belongs to the isolated people known as Moxihatëtëma thëpë. The video was allegedly posted by land-grabbers surveying the territory. 

The video set off alarm bells about the possible return of miners removed from the territory at the beginning of the year.