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Illegal gold mining in the Uraricoera river in Yanomami Territory, January 2022

Illegal gold mining in the Uraricoera river in Yanomami Territory, January 2022. Photo: Bruno Kelly/ISA

This briefing outlines the scale of human rights abuse and environmental destruction caused by illegal gold mining in Yanomami Indigenous Territory, in the Brazilian Amazon, and outlines recommendations for the UK government and British businesses to tackle this issue.

Illegal and destructive gold mining is growing on an alarming scale in Yanomami Indigenous Territory (TIY). CAFOD partners estimate that between 2018 and 2022, the area in TIY destroyed by mining reached more than 5,000 hectares – equivalent to more than 7,000 football pitches.

Gold mining has severe impacts on the health, livelihoods and environment of indigenous communities, such as the Yanomami and Ye’kwana people. 16,000 indigenous people have been impacted by disease, violence, murders and displacement.

The UK is one of the biggest importers of Brazilian gold, and UK companies and investors are likely implicated due to their financing and trading in gold. These companies have a responsibility to ensure they do not contribute to or profit from destructive gold mining.

The new Brazilian government has already taken initial steps to tackle illegal mining in Yanomami Indigenous Territory by launching a police operation to remove illegal miners. Visibility and action by the international community are necessary to support the government’s efforts to uphold indigenous rights, disrupt illegal gold mining infrastructure, repeal laws and policies that enable gold laundering, and improve traceability in the gold supply chain.