Greenpeace finds 176 excavators on indigenous lands

The NGO urges manufacturers to help fight illegal mining

Published on 17/04/2023 - 13:40 By Letycia Bond - São Paulo

NGO Greenpeace Brasil found 176 excavators in illegal mining sites on Yanomami, Kayapó, and Munduruku indigenous lands between 2021 and 2023. As stated in the report Parem as máquinas! Por uma Amazônia livre de garimpo (“Stop the Machines! For an Amazon Free from Mining”), 75 of them (42.6%) are from Hyundai HCE Brasil.

With contributions from Greenpeace East Asia, the document notes that a single machine can cost over BRL 700 thousand—a great investment, as it can do in just one day what three people can do in 40. According to the NGO, the largest fleet of excavators was located in the Kayapó territory, which has been under disputes among loggers and steel companies.

In 35 years, illegal mining soared 1,217 percent on indigenous lands in the Amazon, a study by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research and the University of South Alabama.

Experts constantly use these figures to underscore the connection between mining activity and deforestation. From October 2018 to December 2022, for instance, deforestation resulting from illegal mining in the Yanomami territory surged 309 percent, as per a survey by the Hutukara Yanomami Association. In December 2022, the devastated area totaled 5,053.82 hectares, compared to 1,236 hectares when the monitoring started.

The excavators

The machines can be tracked, Greenpeace pointed out. In the case of Hyundai HCE Brasil, the NGO reports, machines feature a remote management system named Hi Mate, which uses GPS to collect data. The tool is also believed to be able to suspend operations after issuing a command. This is what the NGO is demanding from the companies that manufacture such vehicles, arguing they should stop selling units used in illegal mining and halt the machines when they are identified working for this purpose.

According to the text, the machines started being found in the Yanomami territory late last year. Four of them were located on a clandestine road. Near the site, a group of indigenous people live in voluntary isolation. “As we can see, illegal mining is investing in the construction of roads inside intact forest in order to push the excavators into indigenous territories,” the NGO warned.

“The introduction of these machines helps explain the swift and fierce expansion of [illegal mining] in the Amazon,” Greenpeace Brasil program director Leandro Ramos told Agência Brasil.

Our reporters contacted Hyundai, but the organization had not replied as of the publication of this article.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Nádia Franco

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