Raid on Madeira miners draws media...and doubts


One of the mining vessels police burned in their Nov. 27-29 raid near Autazes in Amazonas state. (Photo courtesy of Brazilian Federal Police)

Brazil’s recent efforts to halt a sudden crush of illegal gold mining on a major Amazon River tributary focused international attention on the burgeoning problem of illicit wildcat mining in the rainforest region and the government’s failure to stop it. From Nov. 27 to Nov. 29, nearly three dozen Federal Police officers and four agents from Ibama, the enforcement arm of the Environment Ministry, burned or sank 131 boats illegally dredging gold from the Madeira River, authorities said. The Federal Police issued a statement saying the crackdown, called Operation Uiara II, sought to “repress the flagrant illegality of these [mining] activities and the gigantic environmental damage resulting from them.” The statement cited “elevated mercury levels in the water, riverbed, vegetation and people” who live on the banks of the Madeira. Most miners reportedly rushed from their dredging vessels to the riverbank in motorboats and disappeared into the rainforest before police... [Log in to read more]

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