2022 DATA

Illegal mining in the Amazon is concentrated less than 500 meters away from water streams

MapBiomas survey shows that 77% of the illegal mining areas were close to rivers, lakes and other water streams

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
The Yanomami Indigenous Land has been devastated by illegal mining activities since the 1970s. The situation got worse during the Bolsonaro administration - Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

A survey released on Thursday (18) by MapBiomas shows that, in 2022, 77% of the illegal mining areas in the Brazilian Amazon were less than 500 meters away from water streams, such as rivers and lakes.

According to satellite images recently revealed, the Amazon had 186,000 hectares of illegal mining areas near water streams, out of a total of 241,000 hectares occupied by illegal miners (known in Brazil as "garimpeiros") in the region. At the time, the Amazon accounted for 92% of all the area mined in the country.

"The proximity of gold mines to watercourses is the DNA of mining activities in the Amazon, especially gold, which is almost always linked to rivers and their alluvial deposits. While deforestation is confined to the area mined, the siltation caused by mining near the edges of rivers and other water streams coupled with the contamination of water by mercury, and more recently by cyanide, reach much larger areas," said Cesar Diniz, a technical coordinator of mining mapping at MapBiomas.

The survey also showed that around 10% of the area mined in the Amazon (25,100 hectares) is located within Indigenous Lands, especially in the Kayapó, Munduruku and Yanomami lands. MapBiomas points out that Indigenous lands are the best-preserved areas in the Amazon: from 1985 to 2022, they lost less than 1% of their native vegetation, compared to 26% recorded in private areas.

"The concentration of mining activities near water streams is extremely worrying since Indigenous and riverside populations use rivers and lakes almost exclusively for producing their food. The contamination of the water means hunger, thirst and serious health risks for these communities - all of which are much more serious in the early stages of life," said Diniz.

MapBiomas is an initiative that brings together universities, civil society organizations and technology companies working to monitor changes in land cover and land use in Brazil. The aim is to work towards the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources.



Edited by: Thalita Pires