Armed miners attack Brazilian environmental agency base in Yanomami Indigenous territory

By March 1, 2023

São Paulo, Brazil – Armed gold miners attacked a base for Brazil’s environmental protection agency that was established weeks earlier in the embattled Yanomami Indigenous Territory in the northern state of Roraima.

The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) reported an attack on its base on February 23. 

According to information released by IBAMA, the suspected illegal miners were traveling down the Uraricoera River in seven high-speed boats and opened fire on federal agents who attempted to approach them. In the shootout, one of the gold miners was shot and arrested. The rest of the group managed to escape.

The boats used by the prospectors were loaded with cassiterite, a mineral used in tin, and were reportedly spotted by drones operated by IBAMA agents. On the international market, one ton of tin is sold for around USD 27,000. IBAMA did not report on the amount of cassiterite seized from the gold miner’s boats.

Cassiterite Stone (USP courtesy)

The base assaulted by the gold miners was set up to prevent the entry of illegal boats into the Yanomami Territory, Brazil’s largest indigenous territory which made headlines in recent weeks after a severe health crisis that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Yanomami people was uncovered. 

Last week, federal agents installed a 240-meter-long steel cable in the riverbed, completely blocking river access to the Indigenous reserve. In addition to the steel cable, two barges are also positioned on the river with IBAMA and National Security Force agents who monitor the region 24 hours a day.

After the attack, IBAMA requested that Federal Police agents also reinforce security in the area.
According to IBAMA President Rodrigo Agostinho, the criminal action in the Palimiú village was planned. “Everyone who tries to break through the blockade will be arrested. Putting an end to illegal mining is a determination of President [Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva],” said Agostinho.

IBAMA base attacked in Palimiú village, Yanomami Indigenous Land (courtesy Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)