Acting in response to public statements from the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, on the need to open up indigenous lands in the Amazon Basin to extractive industries, an estimated 20,000 illegal miners are reported to have invaded the lands of the Yanomami peoples in Brazil. Although the 9.7 million hectare area was established as an Indigenous Park in 1992, meaning it could only be exploited for mining subject to special decisions in the national legislature, over the past 20 years it has been repeatedly threatened by mining invasions which have caused epidemics and violent clashes.
Concerns have also been raised about copycat invasions of Yanomami lands across the border in Venezuela, where the Government of President Maduro has announced plans for a Mining Arc embracing the whole of the south of the country. Currently, owing to a nation-wide gasoline shortage, illegal mining in the Upper Orinoco and Caura rivers in Venezuela have been scaled back.
The American Association of Anthropologists has also appealed to human rights organisations to demand the protection of the Yanomami’s rights.