There are 453 illegal mines in the Brazilian Amazon, according to a new map put together by a group of researchers led by nonprofit Instituto Socioambiental.
In the whole region, that includes areas within nine countries, there are in total 2,500 illegal mines.
Venezuela is the leading country, with 1,899 areas containing clandestine mining operations, but Brazil takes first place in such activities within indigenous lands, with 18 of the 37 identified spots.
President-elect Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) says that indigenous tribes should be allowed to explore their lands.
According to Roberto Cabral, who coordinates inspections at the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), illegal mining "destroys the forest cover. In the Amazon, most mines follow the watercourse, knocking down ravines, changing the rivers' courses and destroying small streams. Also, the mercury used by miners is spread along the river."
Researchers created the map based on a year and half of information provided by technical reports, local partners, satellite images and press reports.
They also analyzed 30 rivers affected by mining activity or its polluting byproducts.
For the group, this new study will allow better-articulated interventions in favor of forest preservation.
Translated by NATASHA MADOV