top of page

“The miners arrived wanting war”, say indigenous Yanomami

Amazônia Real

Indigenous people in Palimiu Village (Photo: Condisi-Y)

The expansion of prospectors to the Parafuri region diverts attention from the attacks that the indigenous people of Palimiu, a village some 200 kilometers away, have been suffering since May. In another document obtained exclusively by Amazônia Real , leaders tell HAY about the explosion of illegal mining and a new level of violence, marked by death threats with the actions of hooded militias armed with rifles, machine guns and bombs.

“The approach of miners, which was sporadic, became more frequent and accompanied by threats. The Yanomami note that now all the miners are heavily armed, some with rifles and weapons similar to those of the army and the police”, indicates an excerpt from the report on the Parafuri region.

On May 10, Palimiu village was attacked with gunfire, and the next day, six federal police officers went to the village, but they were also received with bullets by the criminals. Suspicions fall on miners linked to the PCC (First Command of the Capital), which has been approaching illegal mining in the state since at least 2018 . It was during these attacks that the Yanomami learned that the hooded men were guards hired to protect a mining area and that this is a particularly dangerous group, which is even feared by other miners, whom they began to refer to as “oka pë” – “enemies/aggressors”.

According to the document sent to HAY, the recent threats occur in the daily lives of the Yanomami, in trivial situations of displacement in the outskirts of the communities, in which they find miners and threaten: “We are going to kill the Yanomami!” or “let's do away with the Yanomami!”.

According to reports, the miners claim that the gold is running out in the beds upstream, and claim that they have already mapped the presence of the ore near the villages in the new areas. “The miners are going up the river, the planes, the helicopters, the boats continue. Mainly on the Mucajaí, Catrimani and Apiaú rivers, mining is growing. The invaders know that there will be no heavy operation and they are not afraid because they know that authorities are involved,” said Dário.

Miners hide machinery

According to Dário Kopenawa, the operations carried out in the region are not sufficient for the total disintrusion of the mine in the Yanomami IT. “Garimpeiros are smarter than the Federal Police. They bury the machinery, sink the boats, sink the rafts and hide the equipment in the bushes. They flee to the city while there is an operation and when it ends they return immediately because there is no control, there is no barrier, there is no territorial monitoring”, he explains.

Reports of the most recent attacks involve armed miners against indigenous women, youth and children. On July 8, in the morning, a group of women was attacked. They were looking for the body of a young man who had disappeared into the river, when they were approached by a boat of armed prospectors who fired four shots and returned to the camp.

In the early hours of July 13, a second attack took place in Palimiu. It was two in the morning when the community was approached by two boats “crowded” with miners, who fired ten shots at the Yanomami. There were no injuries. There are already 13 letters sent to the authorities by HAY reporting the violence against the indigenous people.

The size of the destruction of illegal gold mining has already reached 2,430 hectares in TI Yanomami, according to the HAY report released in May. In 2020 alone, degradation had advanced 500 hectares. “Our territory is not protected, it is not safe and the miners will continue to enter. We are at risk, violence is serious and we are threatened every day. The authorities need to eliminate illegal mining”, says Dário.

Operation Omama

The drama experienced by the Yanomami, both in Palimiu and now in Parafuri, should have already ended. At least that was the promise of the federal government operation called Omama. On June 29, the PF, the Army, the Brazilian Air Force, the Brazilian Institute for the Environment (Ibama), Funai and the National Security Force announced the operation to combat illegal mining in the Yanomami IT. The objective was the disintrusion of miners and the protection of indigenous peoples. The name of the operation is a reference to the creator of the Yanomami.

However, indigenous communities, according to the reports raised by the report, remain hostages to the constant threat of invaders. “There are a lot of weapons, really heavy weapons, and the invaders keep saying they're not afraid of anyone, not even the Federal Police,” says a Yanomami from the Parafuri region.

According to the Junior Hekurari leadership, president of the Yanomami and Ye´kuana Indigenous Health Council (Considi-Y), the operations carried out in the Yanomami territory need to be more effective, because as soon as they are closed, the activity returns and all the machinery is recovered . It is not for nothing that the PF has been carrying out operations in the Yanomami IT for years, but even so the gold mining activity continues freely.

“Garimpeiros recover everything quickly,” says Junior Hekurari, referring to the PF's operations. According to him, the situation in Parafuri is chaotic, with daily traffic of small aircraft and the constant arrival of invaders. “There are five aircraft a day landing in the region”, he describes.

The agency approached the PF and the Ministries of Defense and Justice and Public Security to obtain a balance of Operation Omama. The Ministry of Defense indicated that Amazônia Real should contact the Ministry of Justice and it indicated that it should seek information from the Defense. The PF responded to the report, but did not send the information until this publication.

The MPF of Roraima informed, via the Press Office, that it received the letter and is currently analyzing the information to define the most appropriate actions for the case. Funai did not return the report's email.


Follow Genocide Watch for more updates:

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Twitter Icon
  • Grey YouTube Icon
bottom of page