Hundreds of dredging rafts operated by miners undertake a gold rush on the Madeira River, an important tributary of the Amazon River, sailing for several kilometers while state and federal authorities discuss who is responsible for preventing the illegal action.
Rafts equipped with water pumps are tied together in rows that cross almost the entire wide Madeira River. A Reuters witness saw exhaust fumes indicating that they were sucking up gold from the riverbed.
“We count no less than 300 ferries. They they’ve been there for at least two weeks and the government hasn’t done anything,” said Greenpeace Brazil activist Danicley Aguiar.
The gold rush began at the same time world leaders gathered for the COP 26, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow, UK.
During the event and in recent years, the government has complained that the international view critical of environmental policies under Jair Bolsonaro (no party) is not fair.
In the Bolsonaro government, however, deforestation levels have exploded and are continuing to grow in the Amazon . The most recent data from Prodes, an Inpe (National Institute for Space Research) system that measures, annually, deforestation, destruction grew 22% of 2020 to 2021, reaching .300 km2, highest value since 2006.
Bolsonaro itself has even disallowed inspection actions that were in progress.
The Madeira River runs about 3.300 km from its source in Bolivia through the forest in Brazil to empty into the Amazon River.
The dredging rafts sailed down the river below the Humaitá area, where there was an increase in illegal gold extraction, and were last seen about 650 kilometers away in Autazes, a municipality southeast of Manaus.
A spokesperson for the Brazilian Institute Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) said that illegal dredging in the Madeira River is not the federal government’s responsibility, but s from the State of Amazonas and the Institute for Environmental Protection of Amazonas (Ipaam).
Ipaam’s head, Juliano Valente, said that his agency instructed the state security forces to act, but insisted that the river is under federal jurisdiction and inspection is the responsibility of the Federal Police and the National Mining Agency (ANM).
“It’s anything goes. No authority is doing anything to prevent illegal mining, which has become an epidemic in the Amazon,” said Aguiar.
Wanted by Folha, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, stated that the Federal Police is monitoring the “case for the adoption of appropriate measures as soon as possible”.
The Federal Police, in a note, said that “together with other institutions, it will establish the best strategies to face the problem and stop the environmental damage”.
Also questioned by Folha, the ANM (National Mining Agency) stated that it does not inspect locations with illegal mining activities.
“Our activities are aimed at monitoring and inspecting activities recognized by according to the legal and institutional competence of this Agency”, said, in a note, the ANM. environmental crime and usurpation of public goods.”
Folha also sought out the Ministry of the Environment and Ibama, but did not has had an answer so far.