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Environment Exclusive: ‘we are living an epidemic of goldmining in the Amazon’, says Greenpeace spokesperson

Mining dredging rafts parked in the middle of the Rio Madeira (Bruno Kelly/Greenpeace)

Gabriel Abreu – Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – One day after images of illegal gold miners occupying a stretch of the Madeira River on the border of the municipalities of Autazes and Nova Olinda do Norte, the spokesperson of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Greenpeace Danicley de Aguiar said that the Amazon is experiencing an “epidemic” of miners and that the numbers of these activities have grown in recent years in the region. In the images, the boats gather in rows. The arrival of the miners caught the attention of the residents of the region and it was they who denounced the action to the competent bodies.

“We are living an epidemic of illegal mining in the Amazon. It is not something localized in one state or another. Regrettably, mining has skyrocketed inside indigenous lands, Conservation Units and in the main rivers of the region. We are experiencing here a very intense advance of mining activity, especially in the States of Pará, Rondônia and Amazonas, but not only in these States, and this is spreading to several States in the region”, stated Aguiar.

Danicley de Aguiar – Greenpeace spokesperson in the Amazon. (Photo: Gabriel Abreu/Cenarium Magazine)

The dredges suck up the river bed in search of ore, driven by generators, and remove everything they find on the bottom, killing animals and underwater plants. In this process, the gold is retained in the equipment. The mobilization on the Madeira River happened after miners reported finding a large volume of gold. In common situations, the rafts go to the region independently, only this time, more than 300 of them clustered by the Madeira River, where they meet.

“We are talking about an activity that will affect not only the riverside populations, the people of the forests, but also has the potential to affect the life and the public health of the people who live in the cities and we are talking here in the case of Manaus, the largest city in the Brazilian Amazon. I am talking about a city that has more than 2 million inhabitants”, lamented Danicley.

Emergency Action

On Wednesday, 24, the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) in the Amazon issued a recommendation requesting the emergency adoption of coordinated action to suppress and dismantle illegal gold mining in the Rio Madeira and its tributaries, in the municipality of Autazes, with integrated action by the competent federal and state agencies and autarchies, within 30 days.

The Brazilian Army, through the Military Command of the Amazon (CMA); the Superintendence of the Federal Police in Amazonas; the Itacoatiara Fluvial Agency, a Navy unit in charge of the Rio Madeira, subordinated to the Fluvial Captaincy of the Western Amazon (CFAOC), are charged to take action on the recommendation; the Amazonas Institute of Environmental Protection (Ipaam), the presidency of the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) and the Superintendence of the National Mining Agency (ANM) in Amazonas.

Images of the rafts that are in the Rio Madeira region. (Photo: Bruno Kelly/Greenpeace)

Threat

In an audio that circulates in WhatsApp groups, a man says that the group needs to make barriers in the middle of the river, to prevent the arrival of the inspection. “You guys that have a lot of ferries, make a wall like that, wait in front of the ferry, understand? One in the back, another in the front and wait, see what happens, understand? They will respect”, says the voice of a man who has not yet been identified by the agencies.

For the Greenpeace spokesperson, the Amazon is strategic in the fight against climate change and that the Bolsonaro government needs to intervene immediately so that the forest and its resources are not extinguished.

“We are living in the world a race against the climate crisis and the Amazon is fundamental in this race. The Amazon has a fundamental role in climate conservation. So we have a giant challenge in front of us, which is to develop the region without compromising the conservation of the forest”, said the Greenpeace spokesperson.

What the agencies say

Ibama

In a statement, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) said it was aware of the case and on Tuesday, 23, met with the Institute of Environmental Protection of Amazonas (Ipaam) to align the information in order to take appropriate action and coordinate an inspection of mining in the region.

Ipaam

In a note, the Institute of Environmental Protection of Amazonas (Ipaam) clarified that, when it identified the presence of mining rafts, it communicated the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), for the alignment of measures.

The CEO of Ipaam, Juliano Valente, explains that the rafts are anchored in the Madeira River, an area of competence of the federal agencies. The regulation of mineral exploration in the area, according to the manager, is the competence of the National Mining Agency. The licensing is the responsibility of Ibama and the action, in case of crimes of illegal mining, is the competence of the Federal Police. Still on traffic and water pollution, the monitoring is done by the Navy.

Although the competence to act in the area is federal, Juliano Valente said that the state government is available to act in partnership with other agencies and that, on the morning of Wednesday, 24th, held a meeting of alignment with representatives of IBAMA, the Navy and the Federal Police.

“The state government is available to these forces in a collaborative way. So, in all the actions that will come from these agencies, the state government is in support. We will support the administrative actions of Ibama. And the security forces of the state are available to the federal agencies to take the appropriate actions”, emphasized Juliano Valente.

Brazilian Navy

The Brazilian Navy, through the 9th Naval District Command, informed that it has been following closely the mining activity in the Western Amazon, due to its consequences to the safety of navigation and to the environment. Naval Patrols, Patrols and Inspections are carried out on the rivers, in partnership with public security agencies and institutions that regulate the activity.

Federal Police

The Superintendence of the Federal Police of Amazonas pointed out that the investigations “are in progress with the inter-institutional negotiations about the news about the miners in the Madeira River channel. As soon as we gather information and data about the actions of this Regional Superintendence of the Federal Police on the subject in question, we will forward them to everyone”, the Federal Police said in a statement.