Brazil leader promises Yanomami no unwanted mining on their lands

Handout file photo taken on May 27, 2021 released by the Brazilian Presidency showing President Jair Bolsonaro (C) watching an indigenous celebration
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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro promised the Yanomami indigenous people in remarks released Sunday that there will be no mining on their land unless they want it.

The right-wing president's remarks come amid charges by the Yanomami that their lands are being seized and they themselves are coming under attack, from people doing mining illegally.

"If you do not want mining, there will be no mining. There are indigenous brothers in other places, inside and outside the Amazon that do want mining, that want to cultivate the land, and we are going to respect their wishes," Bolsonaro said in a video released Sunday of a meeting he held last week with Yanomami leaders.

The government is preparing a law to regulate mining on lands assigned to indigenous peoples.

The Yanomami people have been warning since last year of tense conditions on their vast reserve of 96,000 square kilometers spread over the states of Roraima and Amazonas and home to some 27,000 indigenous people.

Indigenous advocacy groups and conservation organizations say native peoples' lands are being invaded with encouragement from public comments by Bolsonaro.

In the meeting last week, the president said the army would defend Yanomami rights but he made no mention of attacks by wildcat miners.

Illegal mining, one of the main causes of the destruction of the Amazon basin region, surged by 30 percent last year in Yanomami land, ruining an expanse equivalent to 500 football fields, said a report published in March by the Hutukara Yanomami Association.

For weeks, indigenous people on Yanomami and Mundurucu territories have been denouncing attacks by illegal miners.

A Supreme Court judge last week ordered the Bolsonaro government to take "necessary measures" to protect these lands.