Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s new government has launched what is billed as a mega-operation to eradicate illegal miners from an indigenous reservation in the Amazon. Illegal miners polluted the reservation’s rivers and lands, leading to widespread starvation and disease.
The new government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced the massive operation in late January, hoping to eliminate up to 20,000 illegal miners now believed to be in the Yanomami reserve in northern Brazil. Brazilian Defense Minister José Múcio will visit the region later this week to oversee the operation.
The number of miners has increased dramatically in recent years, with former President Jair Bolsonaro doing little to curb illegal activities in the Amazon.
Citing massive malnutrition and malaria among the Yanomami, President Lula declared a medical emergency. High levels of mercury, used to process ore, have polluted the Yanomami rivers.
Hundreds of agents were dispatched to cut fuel and food supply routes as well as enforce a no-fly zone in the remote area.
This story originally appeared in NPR’s Newscast.