Photo: Fiona Watson
Goal 13: Climate Action
The Yanomami Crisis: What’s Going On?
The Yanomami Indigenous peoples are facing a humanitarian crisis caused by the invasion of thousands of illegal miners
By Jessica Jurkschat
20 FEBRUARY 2023
The Yanomami are a community of approximately 35,000 Indigenous peoples who live in the remote villages of the Orinoco River basin in southern Venezuela and the northernmost reaches of the Amazon River basin in northern Brazil.
In the last four years, more than 20,000 miners invaded the Yanomami territory, bringing disease, sexual abuse and armed violence that has terrified the Yanomamis and led to severe malnutrition and deaths.
The gold miners – known as garimpeiros – come from poor regions and usually cross the forest wearing flip-flops, carrying only food and personal belongings in their backpacks. They sleep in hammocks in campsites.
But their mining is backed by local elites who launder their money in Boa Vista hotels, restaurants, gyms, and gasoline stations, and is designed to outsmart authorities. Such tactics include illicit fuel distribution on the outskirts of Indigenous land, airstrips carved from the jungle for transport of miners and supplies, light planes with modified tail numbers, registered to front companies, helicopters operating between mining sites on the reserves, and illicit communication networks.