Gold rush attracts hundreds of dredged rafts to Amazon tributary

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AUTAZES, Brazil, Nov. 24 (Reuters) – Hundreds of dredging rafts operated by illegal miners gathered in a gold rush on the Madeira River, a major tributary of the Amazon, floating for hundreds of miles as state and federal authorities argue over who is responsible for arresting them.

Rafts fitted with pumps are moored together in lines that stretch almost across the vast Madeira, and a Reuters witness spotted exhaust plumes indicating they are sucking the riverbed in search of gold .

“We counted no less than 300 rafts. They have been there for at least two weeks and the government has done nothing,” said Danicley Aguiar, activist for Greenpeace Brazil.

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The gold rush began when world leaders gathered for a United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, where Brazil vowed to have stepped up protection for the Amazon rainforest. Read more

However, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has weakened environmental law enforcement since taking office in 2019, turning a blind eye to invasions of public and indigenous lands protected by illegal loggers, cattle ranchers and farmers. wild gold miners.

Madeira flows approximately 2,000 miles (3,300 km) from its source in Bolivia through the rainforest in Brazil and into the Amazon River.

The dredged rafts floated downstream from the Humaita region, where there has been an increase in illegal gold mining, and were last seen about 650 km away in Autazes, a municipal district south-east of Manaus.

A spokesperson for the Brazilian environmental protection agency Ibama said the illegal dredging of the Madeira River was not the responsibility of the federal government but of the state of Amazonas and its environmental agency IPAAM.

IPAAM chief Juliano Valente said his agency has called on state security forces to act, but insisted the river falls under federal jurisdiction and enforcement should therefore fall to the federal police and the National Mining Agency (ANM).

Federal police and ANM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It’s a general melee. None of the authorities are doing anything to stop illegal mining, which has become an epidemic in the Amazon,” Aguiar said.

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Reporting by Bruno Kelly Writing by Anthony Boadle Editing by Brad Haynes and Mark Potter

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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