'We Are Afraid Again,' Says Junior Yanomami about The Return of Gold Miners to Indigenous Land

Leadership demands solutions from the government to ensure the region's permanent security

São Paulo

Amid a health, social, and environmental crisis that captured the country's attention, the face of Junior Hekurari Yanomami became known far beyond where he grew up. At the end of January, he exposed the tragedy caused by illegal gold mining and the lack of state assistance in the Yanomami Indigenous Land.

Hundreds of deaths due to malnutrition and malaria, mercury contamination from illegal gold extraction, increased violence, and deforestation were some of the impacts of the presence of thousands of invaders in the region.

TOPSHOT - A structure to remove gold and cassiterite is pictured at an illegal mining camp, known as garimpo, during an operation by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) against Amazon deforestation at the Yanomami territory in Roraima State, Brazil, on February 24, 2023. (Photo by ALAN CHAVES / AFP) - AFP

The situation led President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), recently inaugurated, to declare a state of emergency in the indigenous land. Operations were set up to assist the sick and carry out the territory's eviction.

Nine months later, however, Junior reports that invaders are returning. "We are afraid again that the same situation will return and more deaths in the communities," he tells Folha. "Many gold miners are coming back."

He reports that about two months ago, the presence of security forces significantly decreased.

"We noticed that the operation to remove the gold miners stopped. So, they are taking advantage of this silence," he says.

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