A new report has exposed the impact of illegal mining on many indigenous lands in the Amazon as gold prices increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report, published by the World Resources Institute found that together, legal and illegal mining now cover more than 20% of Indigenous lands located in six countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana and Peru) threatening hundreds of Indigenous communities and critical ecosystems across 450,000 square kilometres.
The price of gold hit a record high of almost $2,100 American dollars per ounce in August pushed wildcats miners into the Amazon. “Gold prices had been rising for years but the threat to economies from the novel coronavirus led to a surge in prices – up about 35% this year – as investors sought the perceived safety of gold. As prices rise, so does demand and mining,” the report said.
“The extent of mining concessions and illegal mining areas that overlap indigenous areas in the Amazon is much more significant than many people thought,” said Peter Veit, director of the WRI’s Land and Resource Rights Initiative, and one of the report’s authors to The Guardian newspaper.
One of the most affected countries in the Amazon region by illegal mining is Brazil.
“Army operations have failed to clear tens of thousands of miners from Brazil’s biggest indigenous reserve, the Yanomami. From October 2018 to March 2020 alone, nearly 2,000ha were degraded by mining in the reserve,” the report said.
The report also finds that in several countries, Indigenous communities have successfully used their rights to shut down illegal, harmful mining on their lands. It offers a number of case studies of successful efforts to block mining in regions, including the Yaigojé Apaporis’ land in the Colombian Amazon and the Indigenous Shipibo and Ese’Eja communities’ lands in the Tres Islas territory of Peru. But to secure long-term benefits, Indigenous communities will need financial and technical assistance to monitor illegal mining practices on their lands, recognize threats and collect evidence that can be used in courts.