Money makes the world go round. Unfortunately, this unwritten law does also apply to the jungle
In 1973, the Brazilian government planned the construction of the Perimetral Norte. This road was supposed to lead right through the Yanomami area. Fortunately, international protests put an end to this project which had already been initiated. But the threat did not end there… In the early 1980s more than 50,000 gold diggers invaded the Yanomami area. Until now, they have built more than 120 runways for their airplanes all throughout the jungle.
In their search for mineral resources the gold diggers clear the jungle, dig huge holes into the ground, and use strong water jets to remove auriferous soil from the tree roots. Mercury is used to absorb the gold. It poisons the air, earth, rivers, trees, and plants – destroying the livelihood of the Yanomami.
The work of the gold diggers creates swamps – an ideal breeding ground for the Anopheles fly, a dangerous carrier of malaria. Today almost every village is affected by this devastating tropical disease. Approximately 70% of the Yanomami are suffering from malaria. Resistant pathogens developed, which are difficult to treat. Tubercolosis, measles, and other infectious diseases are a further threat to the Yanomami.
Since the golds diggers invaded their territory, 2,000 Yanomami have been victims to violent raids and diseases brought in from the outside.
For a long time, the Brazilian government did nothing to remedy this deplorable state of affairs. International human rights organizations helped to increase the pressure on the government. As a result, the Policia Ferderal removed most of the gold diggers form the Yanomami territory.
But there are still a few hundred gold diggers left in the Yanomami territory and at the Rio Siapa, a tributary of the Orinoco.
A hard core of gold diggers remains – as does malaria.