By Gabriela Sarmet
Today we demonstrate our support for the 30th anniversary of the demarcation of the Yanomami Indigenous Land, the largest Brazilian indigenous territory that historically suffers from socio-environmental conflicts caused by the illegal advance of mineral extraction on their lands.
On the eve of the 30th anniversary of demarcation, I had the pleasure of talking to Mauricio Iximaureri Yanomami, indigenous health agent and member of the Kurikama Yanomami Association, and Silvio Cavuscens from SECOYA (Association of Service and Cooperation with the Yanomami People) about the current health emergency in the region and the latest violations of rights resulting from mineral exploration on their land.
Since the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency, there has been a substantial increase in invasions by miners who now move around the indigenous land secure in the knowledge that their crimes will go unpunished. Currently, there are records of around 20,000 miners illegally occupying Yanomami Indigenous Land. As a result, not only has violence against indigenous people increased but there has also been a significant reduction in the vegetation cover of the Amazon rainforest, considered sacred by the Yanomami. The graph below illustrates the area destroyed by garimpo (wildcat mining) in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory, with a 46% expansion in the area deforested in 2021 when compared to the same period in 2020.
Source: Sivep-Malaria, Report Yanomami Under Attack (2022)
It is due to this alarming scenario that Maurício Iximaureri and Silvio are now visiting several cities in Europe to give visibility to this issue. With the support of our friends at Survival International, who kindly arranged this meeting, they have come to publicise the Pro-Yanomami Campaign – in Defence of the life of the Yanomami People. Starting in Switzerland on 22 April, they went on to Germany, France and then connected with us in England. Now they are in Luxembourg a few days away from their final destination, Spain.
According to both, among the main motivations are the need to establish new contacts both with the international press and with civil society organisations working for the protection of the Amazon and the rights of indigenous peoples, in order to build bridges of solidarity. You can support their campaign via this link.
INDIGENOUS MOBILIZATION ON THE GROUND
In April the largest indigenous mobilisation in Brazil took place in Brasília, the Free Land Camp 2022 (Acampamento Terra Livre, ATL), where I was able to attend and pass on key actions and updates to the London Mining Network, of which I am an individual associate member. The biggest highlight was the Open Letter against Bill 191, making it clear that indigenous peoples will not accept mining on their lands. The letter was drawn up by parliamentarians, partner institutions of the Mixed Parliamentary Front for the Defence of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, organisations and social and popular movements from the countryside and the city, calling for international support to put pressure on the Brazilian Congress and the Executive Power for the bill not to be passed. Your organization can show support by signing the Open Letter and sharing it amongst your networks
OTHER MINING-RELATED ACTIVITIES WITH BRITISH CONNECTIONS IN BRAZIL
Last Monday (23), the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the State of Minas Gerais (MPMG) launched the Integrated Centre for Environmental Management (CIGA), considered a new step in the Policy for Dam Safety in Brazil. Called the “world’s first independent centre” by British Consul Lucas Brown, the centre was conceived as an intelligence centre to establish integrated control of information around the issue.
In 2021 the UK government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with MPMG to formalise a collaboration for technologies for the safety, transparency and governance of mining. As a result of this, British Space Technology will provide the centre’s main technical support.
The promise is that CIGA will ensure, through highly technological monitoring, an efficient mapping of all information relating to tailings dams, systematizing, in a simple and direct manner, the data produced by independent audits, public agencies and entrepreneurs. According to MPMG, all these data will be made available for public access. The project foresees the incorporation to CIGA of technologies that will show, in control panels, the compliance with environmental restrictions, audit recommendations, court decisions or other administrative requirements. It also aims to meet the demands for transparency, strongly advocated by civil society and affected communities.
The Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Brazil, Melanie Hopkins, was at the launching event of CIGA. “Dams are not just a challenge of Minas Gerais. It is a global challenge. In the United Kingdom, we also had a tragic story, in 1966. A mine collapse in Wales resulted in 144 people being killed. I want to emphasize, therefore, that dam safety is a global challenge. We need to promote international co-operation. I am confident that the launch of CIGA is a major step forward for monitoring, safety and transparency in dam management,” she said.
Finally, it is worth noting that we at London Mining Network are currently collaborating on the Second Edition of the Safety First report, published with Earthworks, with sharp criticism of The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management which was the basis for the design of CIGA. One of the demands of the 1st edition was precisely the creation of an independent dam safety monitoring centre, but one that was built from its conception alongside affected communities and organised civil society – which was not the case. It remains to be seen whether the British and Brazilian governments will enable this broad social participation in the near future, so that these criticisms may be addressed in the management and implementation of the CIGA.