“In the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Land, there was a very high level of mercury in people’s blood. It was quite alarming and, before the result came out, two children passed away with a very high level of mercury”.
Listen to Beka Munduruku in an excerpt from the episode:

Cacalos Garrastazu


At first, it looks like a floating house made of metal in the middle of the river. But once you look closely, you realize that there are huge cranes and pipes attached to this metallic structure that can be seen in the most diverse points of the Tapajós River. These are rafts with dredges, used to scour the riverbed in search for gold.

They are everywhere you look: our team saw floating rafts with mining dredges operating in the Tapajós River near Itaituba, near the Buburé port, near the Sawré Muybu village, and along the extension of the Sawré Muybu indigenous territory.

In general, these rafts have wooden structures and equipment that are not cheap: they cost around 20 thousand dollars. They work 24 hours a day, with noisy engines that consume just over 200 liters of diesel fuel per day. Expenses with fuel, alone, can reach for 700 dollars per week.

According to a study led by researchers from the National Committee in Defense of Territories against Mining, based in Brasília, the outbreak of mining registered in the Munduruku territories in 2020 – and in other Amazon Indigenous Lands and Brazilian lands – is directly linked to the gold’s price increase.

“The rise is undoubtedly related to the Covid-19 pandemic as this metal is safer in the face of volatile currency prices”, state the authors of The Siege of Gold: illegal mining, destruction, and struggle on Munduruku lands, published in 2021.

The boom of mining in the Munduruku territories can be seen clearly in the map below, produced by InfoAmazônia, which highlights the increase in illegal mining especially in the Upper Tapajós River, down to the Middle Tapajós, and approaching the Sawré Muybu indigenous territory, where is located Beka’s village.

Source: Infoamazonia

Illegal mining on indigenous lands boomed between 2010 and 2020

The area mined in indigenous territories increased by 495% in a decade; in protected areas, the increase was of 300%

The boom of mining in the Brazilian Amazon was measured in a study by Mapbiomas, which points out the exponential increase in illegal mining within indigenous lands, and also in conservation units. In both cases, mining is forbidden by law and constitutes a crime.

In 2020, the survey shows that half of the total area mined in Brazil is illegal: almost 10% is located within indigenous lands, and 40% inside conservation units. “Even if we knew that mining was widespread throughout the Amazon, the dimension of the problem scared even us, experienced specialists”, recognizes César Diniz, who coordinates the Brazilian Annual Land Use and Land Cover Mapping conducted by MapBiomas.

The destruction caused by mining in the Amazon can be seen from space, as showed by satellite images



“It is estimated that mining has dumped 130 tons of mercury into the Brazilian Amazon, and it is possible that this volume is even higher since the beginning of Bolsonaro administration. And this mercury ends up in the rivers, in the fish, and in the local population bodies.”

Marcelo Oliveira, conservation specialist at WWF

Episode in pictures

Cacalos Garrastazu / Eder Content