Ilegal mining in indigenous territories Kayapó, Pará, Brazil

The Kayapó people of the Amazon are excellent guardians of the forest but illegal gold mining and big business interests is threatening their ecosystems and livelihoods.


In 1991, Brazil’s Federal Government created the Kayapó Indigenous Land (KIL), comprising approximately 3.3 million hectares of native forest in the municipalities of Cumaru do Norte, Bannach, Ourilânia do Norte and São Félix do Xingu in southern Pará State. Since then, the KIL has been constantly under threat by illegal gold mining operations. These operations, which had started in the 1980s, were facilitated by the opening of new roads across the Amazon forest.

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Basic Data
NameIlegal mining in indigenous territories Kayapó, Pará, Brazil
SiteCumaru do Norte, Bannach, Ourilânia do Norte and São Félix do Xingu
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsSince 2000, deforestation more than doubled in the Kayapo demarcated area (KIL). Gold mining is considered a significant threat to the health of local communities, with FUNAI having already identified almost 3000 people contaminated by mining residues.
Project Area (in hectares)3,300,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population3000-5000
Start Date1980
Relevant government actorsIBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources). FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio). Miners’ cooperatives, including Cooperativa de Garimpeiros de Ourilândia do Norte. Federal Police. The State of Pará Public Ministry
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEjos: Kayapó Indigenous,

Supporters: Amazon Watch,
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingArtisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Governamental inspectors (IBAMA)
Forms of MobilizationOfficial complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Potential: Deaths
OtherMercury to separate gold from grit, leaves a large footprint of contamination.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Displacement
OtherInternal conflicts between communities;.
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.So far, the dismantling operations haven’t been sufficient to put a stop to illegal mining inside the KIL. The future scenario isn’t’ promising: three years ago (2015), Brazil’s outgoing president, Michel Temer, gave priority to the discussion and approval of a two-decade Law proposal that tries to facilitate mining activities inside indigenous lands (Project 1610/96). As for the new president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, he has already stated that no indigenous community will stand in the way of Brazil’s economic development.
Sources and Materials

Projeto de lei que permite minerar em Terra Indígena volta à cena duas décadas depois
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Mineração e Garimpo em Terras Indígenas: um dossiê
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Garimpo que contaminava índios com mercúrio no Pará foi fechado em operação conjunta da Funai, PF e Ibama
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Ibama desativa 29 balsas e máquinas de garimpo na Terra Indígena Kayapó (PA)
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Terra Indígena Kayapó
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Operação desarticula garimpo e comercialização ilegal de ouro na Terra Indígena Kayapó, no PA
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PF combate garimpo ilegal em terra indígena Kayapó
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Índios Kaiapó lutam para preservar suas terras do garimpo ilegal de ouro
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No sul do Pará, garimpeiros interditam PA-279 pelo segundo dia
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Na Funai e no Incra, governo aposta em pastores e ruralistas
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Mina em terra de índio
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Agentes são recebidos a tiros ao fiscalizar garimpo ilegal em terras indígenas
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Surto de garimpo destrói floresta e divide índios no Pará
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Polícia Federal desarticula esquema de garimpo em terra indígena no PA
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Illegal logging, mining threaten an Amazon river community
[click to view]

Other Documents

A gold miner
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Officials are shot while inspecting illegal mining in indigenous lands Source: DW
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Meta Information
ContributorENVJustice Project
Last update26/11/2018