Illegal goldminers supported by Bolsonaro bring environmental destruction and coronavirus to Yanomami communities
- ‘Like a bomb going off’: why Brazil’s largest reserve is facing destruction
- Read more in our series Biodiversity: what happened next?
A petition with 439,000 signatures demanding “miners out, Covid out” of the Yanomami reserve in Roraima state was handed to Brazil’s congress this month as shamanic images were projected on to the building’s exterior. With Covid-19 ravaging the Yanomami population since the first death from the disease was reported in April, the existence of the “garimpeiros”, or goldminers, has brought even greater threats to the reserve.
The estimated 20,000 miners were already blamed for bringing alcohol and prostitution into the Yanomami reserve, where they have worked illegally for decades, clearing forests and polluting rivers with mercury used in separating out the gold. The destruction wreaked by their work has increased since far-right president Jair Bolsonaro took office – and they have kept working during the pandemic.