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Indigenous group detains 12 alleged gold miners in Amazon

SAO PAULO (AP) – An Indigenous group in Brazil said on Wednesday its members detained 12 people for allegedly mining illegally in the Amazon and handed them over to police.

The non-profit Urihi Associação Yanomami said in a statement that the incident took place on Tuesday in the northern state of Roraima, which borders Venezuela. The organisation said its move was aimed at avoiding the risk of water contamination by mercury in mining.

Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples Ministry confirmed that a dozen alleged miners, including 10 men and two women, were in police custody.

The Yanomami group filmed some of its members carrying bows and shotguns as they took the alleged miners to police. The detainees did not make comments in the video. The Associated Press could not find a spokesperson for them.

The Yanomami community is the Amazon’s largest Indigenous tribe living in relative isolation, and many of its members are contaminated with mercury coming from widespread illegal gold mining, according to Brazil’s top public health institute.

The Yanomami territory, which covers an area the size of Portugal and has a population of 27,000, has endured decades of illegal mining. Its problem with miners significantly expanded during the four-year term of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, which ended in 2022.

An aerial view of the Amazon rainforest. PHOTO: AFP
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