Mining dredge enters the Juruá River and worries residents

Mining dredger going up the Juruá River. Photo: Disclosure/TMJ Forum

The mining activity once again worried residents of the Médio Juruá region, in Amazonas. On the morning of February 16, a large mining dredger was seen traveling up the Juruá River, crossing the municipalities of Juruá and Carauari, one of the most preserved regions of the Brazilian Amazon. On the night of February 26th, the same vessel was seen in the municipality of Itamarati. The case was reported to the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) and the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama).

Employees from the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), with the support of the Military Police, approached the ferry on February 19, in the urban area of the municipality of Carauari (AM), following complaints. After requesting information from ICMBio, those responsible for the vessel presented an Operation License, issued by the Amazonas Environmental Protection Institute (IPAAM), authorizing gold mineral research in the municipality of Itamarati (AM). However, ICMBio employees found that the various utensils and tools found on the vessel were incompatible with research activities and were generally used for mining.

Processes for mining mining applications in the Juruá region are being processed at the National Mining Agency (ANM). But, according to public information available on the agency's own system, none of them are authorized so far. Mineral exploration in the region is, therefore, an illegal activity. 

In view of this, the Forum of the Middle Juruá Territory (TMJ Forum), a collective of public and private organizations committed to the conservation and sustainable development of the Middle Juruá region, filed, on February 21st, a letter of complaint addressed to the MPF and Ibama requesting immediate and firm action from control and inspection bodies, in order to avoid the consummation of serious or irreversible damage to the environment, health and safety of indigenous peoples and traditional communities, present and future generations that inhabit (will) and live off the life produced in the Juruá River.?

Members of the forum believe that miners are taking advantage of the shutdown of Ibama and ICMBio servers to commit the illegal practice. ?The urgency is evident in the fact that Ibama and ICMBio have paralyzed the exercise of their external activities, especially inspection, which is so necessary in this case. IPAAM, in turn, does not have an operating base in the cities mentioned. Therefore, environmental inspection is severely impaired?, says an excerpt from the complaint.

The risks of illegal mining

Illegal mining can cause serious consequences for the environment, biodiversity and human health, in addition to making sustainable management activities of natural resources that generate income and are the basis of the economy and food security of traditional and indigenous populations unfeasible.

According to the Garimpo Impact Calculator, developed by the civil society organization CSF in partnership with the Federal Public Ministry, the mining ferry in Juruá can generate environmental damage valued at 14.5 million reais in a period of one year, the equivalent of around 40 thousand reais per day of operation. The impacts refer to the silting of the watercourse and mercury contamination. Furthermore, the calculator estimates that around 873 people could be contaminated by mercury, causing various health problems, such as heart problems and loss of IQ.

Third attempt

Two other attempts to invade illegal mining have already occurred in June is at October 2022, when mining ferries were detected transiting and operating through the region. At the time, extractive leaders were threatened and the case was widely reported in the national and international press.

In this episode, illegal mining did not prosper thanks to the coordination of civil society and quick action by the responsible bodies. In November 2022, following a complaint filed by the TMJ Forum, Ibama and the Federal Police, with the support of ICMBio and the Military Police, set fire to the mining ferry that was illegally dredging on the Juruá River.

*This text was produced by the Forum Território Médio Juruá and originally published in OPAN website.

About the Middle Juruá Territory Program (PTMJ) 

PTMJ was created in 2017 with the aim of contributing to the sustainable development of the territory, promoting the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable livelihoods and the well-being of traditional populations. 

Sitawi raises funds and manages the financial contributions from PTMJ financiers. In addition, it also manages programs with local implementers, thinking about strategies for the development of Médio Juruá. As coordinator of the program, Sitawi expresses its position against this illegal exploration activity and endorses the sovereignty of traditional peoples and populations to be consulted on undertakings and activities in their territories.  

Find out more about our initiatives and mechanisms at Conservation and Climate Finance.

Related publications

Skip to content