Munduruku indigenous resistance against illegal gold mining in Pará, Brazil

A movement of the indigenous Munduruku group has been resisting illegal mining in their territory, which has become a new violent and lawless frontier of environmental and socio-cultural destruction.


The indigenous Munduruku group has some 14,000 people and concentrates in the region of the Tapajós basin in the Brazilian state of Pará, either in the Munduruku Indigenous Territory (which comprises 23,820 square kilometers) or in nearby towns and territories. Situated along the Tapajós river and tributaries such as Cururú, Teles Peles and Das Tropas, the communities in the territory live from fishing and hunting, fruits and açaí. The river is the main source of drinking water and also culturally and spiritually important. This very remote area of the Amazon also borders the conservation unit of the Crepori National Forest (Flona Crepori) and is close to a series of mega dam projects, some of which have already been realized and provoked indigenous resistance (as e.g. the Munduruku and other groups occupied the Belo Monte and the São Manoel dams). Before the arrivals of colonialists, the Munduruku used to occupy vast areas of the Amazon and practiced a warlike culture. Today they are still known for their brave resistance, led by the “Ipereg Ayu Movement” (“people who know how to defend themselves”), but also for a very horizontal consensus-based organization and particularly strong participation of its female members who participate in mobilizations and direct actions of the Ipereg Ayu and organize in the Wakoborun association. [1][2][3][4][5]

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Basic Data
NameMunduruku indigenous resistance against illegal gold mining in Pará, Brazil
SiteAldeia Posto de Vigilância
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project Area (in hectares)2,382,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationunknown
Start Date01/07/1983
Company Names or State EnterprisesOurominas from Brazil - accused of buying illegally mined gold
Relevant government actorsFederal Police, IBAMA, FUNAI, Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), Federal Public Ministry, Brazilian government and Congress
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersIperegay Movement, the women's association Wakoborun and other Munduruku associations
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingArtisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Threats to use arms
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Air pollution, Desertification/Drought, Fires, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Infectious diseases
Potential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesStop illegal, destructive mining, offer alternative economic activities to those currently engaged in illegal mining or gold trade, and reestablish autonomy for the indigenous community.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The mobilization has been effective in raising awareness and forcing the government to react, but has so far not resulted in the stop of mining, while violence and social division have augmented.
Sources and Materials

2. Poirier, C. (2018): Government Crackdown on Illegal Amazon Gold Mining Could Backfire for Brazil's Munduruku. Portal Amazon Watch, 28.06.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

3. Instituto Socioambiental (2018): Munduruku. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

4. Torres,M., Loures,R., Branford, S. (2018): Ofensiva não impede mineração de ouro e ameaças de morte no rio das Tropas na Amazônia. Portal Mongabay, 05.06.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

9. Maisonnave, F. (2018): Native Brazilians Try to Close Major Illegal Mining Site Polluting River in Pará. Folha de S. Paulo Online, 05.02.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

10. Movimento Iperegayu (2018): Comunicado para autoridades ambientais e MPF, FUNAI. 18.01.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

6. Maisonnave, F. (2018): Órgãos federais lançam ofensiva contra garimpos ilegais no Pará. Folha de S. Paulo Online, 18.05.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

7. CIMI (2018): MPF pede fiscalização urgente contra garimpo ilegal em áreas Munduruku no Pará. 02.02.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

11. Portal Amazônia (2018): Resistentes, mulheres Munduruku lutam por espaço político. 08.09.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

8. Maisonnave, F., Prado, A. (2018): Megagarimpo ilegal provoca 'febre do ouro' e divide índios no Pará. Folha de S. Paulo Online, 11.06.2017. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

5. Branford, S.; Torres, M. (2017): ‘Day of Terror’: Munduruku village attacked by Brazil’s Federal Police. 11.01.2017. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

12. CIMI (2018): Mulheres Munduruku divulgam nota direto de um garimpo localizado na terra indígena. 04.04.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

1. Maisonnave, F. (2018): A Gold Mine Swallowed Their Village. This Amazon Tribe Is Here to Take It Back. Climate Home News, 14.02.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

Media Links

“Day of Terror" Eldorado Operation, Mongabay” (Video about the police violence against Munduruku in 2012)
[click to view]

“The Tropas is dead" (Video report on the Munduruku patrol along the Tropas river)
[click to view]

Other Documents

PAMUMI 1a Warriors of the Ipereg Ayu movement (© Fabiano Maisonnave/Folhapress)
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PAMUMI 2b A patrol of the Munduruku community (© Movimento Iperegayu)
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PAMUMI 2a Munduruku direct action against miners (© Movimento Iperegayu)
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PAMUMI 4a Police raid against miners (© Avener Prado /Folhapress)
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PAMUMI 5b Ipereg Ayu movement during a protest (© Movimento Iperegayu)
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PAMUMI 3a A blockade of the Ipereg Ayu movement (© Movimento Iperegayu)
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PAMUMI 1b Location of the Munduruku territory (© Mauricio Torres / The Intercept)
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PAMUMI 4b A illegal mining site within the territory (© ISA)
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PAMUMI 2c Munduruku during the patrol in PV village (© Fabiano Maisonnave/Folhapress)
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PAMUMI 3b Contaminated water of the Rio das Tropas (© Fabiano Maisonnave/Folhapress)
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PAMUMI 5a Munduruku women / Wakoborun association (© Movimento Iperegayu)
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorMax Stoisser
Last update09/11/2018