Opinion: The global gold rush puts the Amazon rainforest at greater risk

By Robert Muggah and Mac Margolis

Published in the NPR

Even before Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva assumed office on Jan. 1, he was steeling himself for a national emergency. From cratered riverbanks and escalating violence to deadly pathogens on Indigenous lands, wildcat gold prospectors had left their devastating mark on the Amazon basin. Waved on by former President Jair Bolsonaro between 2019 and 2022, they helped nudge Brazil closer to the status of global pariah.

Lula wasted no time, immediately revoking two of his predecessor’s executive orders that had sped up irregular gold mining. He went on to dispatch security forces to evict the miners from besieged Yanomami territory, sanctioned a provisional decree to crack down on the purchase of illegal gold, and set aside more than 2,300 square miles as protected Indigenous land. In early May, he sent three ministers to the region to assess the damage.

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