Illegal Mining and Climate Change in Brazil Threatens the Livelihood of Indigenous Peoples

Yanomami women and children: extraction of minerals within the Indigenous Land not only contaminates rivers and people but also destroys forests and affects the indigenous way of life, imposing restrictions on movement within their lands



The Indians are a group of people recognized as descendants of the people who inhabited Brazil before the arrival of Europeans. They are composed of many tribes. Among the largest are the lanomamis, the Guajajaras, and the Guarani.

At the time of the arrival of the Europeans, there were between five and seven million Indians in Brazil.

According to the 2010 IBGE – Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics Census, more than 305 indigenous tribes add up to 896,917 people. Of these, 324,834 live in cities and 572,083 in rural areas, which corresponds to approximately 0.47% of the country’s total population. Among the largest groups are the Ianomâmis, the Guajajaras and the Guaranis, for example.

Brazil has a territorial extension of 851,196,500 hectares, that is, 8,511,965 km2. Indigenous lands total 726 areas, where 13.8% of the lands are reserved for indigenous peoples.

Most of it is concentrated in the Legal Amazon: there are 424 areas, 115,344,445 hectares, representing 23% of the Amazonian territory and 98.25% of the extension of all indigenous lands in the country. The remainder, 1.75%, is spread across the Northeast, Southeast, South and states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Goiás.


Indigenous and socio-environmental entities denounced an ongoing “humanitarian tragedy” in the Yanomami Indigenous Land, during a hearing by the external commission of the Chamber of Deputies on 07/14/22.

The area, which occupies parts of the states of Roraima and Amazonas, is marked by illegal gold and cassiterite mining, sexual violence against women and children, death threats, and the breakdown of health posts.

The geographer and analyst from the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) Estevão Senra presented updated data from the report “Yanomami under Attack”: by April of this year, there were already 4,000 hectares impacted by illegal mining inside the indigenous land and more than 40 clandestine trails in the service of miners and drug traffickers.

In 2021, the region recorded almost 50% of the country’s cases of malaria and today there are around 3,000 children with a nutritional deficit, according to Senra. “Today, the Yanomami Indigenous Land is the scene of one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies taking place in Brazil. The two main vectors of this crisis are the advance of illegal mining and the mismanagement of the health district, which are intertwined and are reinforcing each other,” he said.


For FAO, indigenous peoples’ ways of life and livelihoods can teach the world a lot about how to conserve natural resources, source and sustainably grow food, living in harmony with nature. The agency believes that mobilizing the knowledge originating from this heritage and these historical legacies is important to face the challenges that agriculture and food face today and in the future.

In the list below FAO presents five of the many ways in which indigenous peoples are helping the world combat climate change:

  1. Your traditional farming practices are better adapted to a changing climate
  2. Conserve and restore forests and natural resources
  3. Their foods and traditions can help expand and diversify diets
  4. They grow indigenous crops that are more resistant to climate change
  5. They oversee a large part of the world’s biodiversity

FAO considers indigenous peoples to be invaluable partners in providing solutions to climate change and creating a world with #ZeroHunger.

We will never achieve long-term solutions to climate change and food and nutrition security without seeking help and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Brazil Country Manager Carlos Alexandre de Oliveira

Photo: By Cmacauley 


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