A year long investigation into criminal activities in the territory of Brazil’s Yanomami tribe has led to the arrest of 26 goldminers.
Gold, motor boats, dredging equipment, firearms and several light aircraft have been confiscated.
The police also uncovered five criminal groups which were allegedly funding the goldmines. Those involved include local pilots, businessmen and jewelers.
One group of miners was operating near a community of uncontacted Yanomami. A spokesman for FUNAI, the government’s indigenous affairs department, told a local newspaper that, ‘There was a risk of genocide due to the pressure from the miners. We already have information about confrontations between Indians and miners.’
The Yanomami have protested for years about the devastating impacts the miners have on their communities. The dredges have destroyed the river beds, and the mercury used to separate the gold has contaminated fish and drinking water.
The miners have brought in diseases to which many remote communities have little or no resistance, and have attacked some Yanomami.
Previous operations in the territory have failed to stop illegal goldmining. This time, a spokesman for the federal police said they hoped to ‘cut off the economic motor’ of the miners by targeting those funding them.