‘Don’t buy Brazilian gold’: Q&A with Indigenous leader Júnior Hekurari Yanomami

  • Júnior Hekurari Yanomami is a leader of the Yanomami individuals in Roraima state, Brazil, where he established a company to help his individuals after working as a health employee.
  • In a Mongabay interview, the Indigenous leader required a boycott of Brazilian gold and stated he expected efforts to discover long-lasting options to keep unlawful miners out of the Yanomami area.
  • In early March, Júnior led a project to raise global awareness about Amazonian gold by granting wood statuettes to Oscar candidates.

When asked if he had a message for the world, Júnior Hekurari Yanomami was emphatic: “Don’t purchase Brazilian gold.” Júnior, 36, from the Surucucu neighborhood on Brazil’s biggest and most popular Indigenous area, the Yanomami, satisfied Mongabay in a hotel near São Paulo’s Paulista Avenue.

Home to some 27,000 Indigenous individuals, the Yanomami land is presently in the middle of a serious humanitarian crisis driven by prohibited gold mining, made it possible for and motivated throughout the previous federal government of reactionary previous President Jair Bolsonaro.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who took workplace as president in early January for a 3rd term (the very first 2 covered from 2003 to 2010), has actually made eliminating prohibited miners and the impact of their rich employers from the Yanomami land a leading concern.

Restoring order in the Yanomami Territory works as a base test for Lula’s vibrant environment program. Because February, federal forces have actually led succeeding crackdown operations, damaging important mining devices and making arrests.

Júnior Yanomami is requiring a boycott of Brazilian gold and for efforts to discover long-lasting options to keep unlawful miners out of the Yanomami area. Image by Felipe Haurelhuk.

While lots of unlawful miners have actually left– typically for nearby nations Venezuela, Suriname and Guyana, or other Brazilian states like Pará– Junior stated that numerous are simply biding their time prior to attacking the Yanomami Territory once again.

Mongabay spoke with Junior the exact same week that an Associated Press examination exposed using Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites in the area, which have actually shown a benefit for unlawful miners.

The high-powered portable web makes it possible for mining mafias to keep in contact, alert of cops raids and send out money from another location, showing the progressively state-of-the-art nature of Brazil’s present unlawful mining boom.

The Yanomami Territory is the size of Portugal and is just available, in useful terms, by air. Junior blamed extremely capitalized company figures in Roraima state for being the ringleaders of the unlawful mining fraud.

While making it really clear that he didn’t feel any pity for the frequently bad and ignorant prohibited miners “utilized” by business people, keeping in mind that “Indigenous lands are not task centers”, he yielded that in the long term sustainable work services would assist.

The young leader and health employee just recently promoted a project at the Oscars, “The Cost of Gold,” to raise awareness of the often-murky origins of the metal, along with the existing predicament of the Yanomami.

Different from the conventional gold-plated statuette, 20 Oscar candidates got a wood figure of Omama, a Yanomami divine being.

This interview has actually been modified for length and clearness.

Mongabay: What was the believing behind the concept for the Oscars project “The Cost of Gold”?

Júnior Hekurari Yanomami: It was really an idea by some individuals on my group. I believed it was a fantastic concept. Raising awareness amongst the world’s best-known stars. The Oscar has gold. We understand that lots of gold leaves the Amazon unlawfully for other nations and we wish to reveal the world that this gold has the blood of households that suffered. We approach terrific artists and excellent stars so we can have this discussion and inform them: “You do not require gold.” For us, to eliminate this gold, we suffer a lot. Lives lost, moms suffered.

Mongabay: How do you rank the Lula federal government’s efforts to rid the Yanomami land of unlawful miners up until now?

Júnior Hekurari Yanomami: It brings an extremely strong significance. We are positive. The Lula federal government decreed to accompany and safeguard the Yanomami land. Now the Federal Police, IBAMA [the federal government’s ecological company], performed significant operations where they got rid of lots of prohibited miners from the Yanomami Indigenous land. Now it depends on us to rearrange the neighborhoods. For us to ensure flexibility, cultural occasions in the neighborhoods and to ensure the future of the kids.

Mongabay: The last election was really tight. Do you stress that a modification of federal government in 2026– or possibly increased political instability– could speed up the damage when again?

Júnior Hekurari Yanomami: We hesitate since we currently requested for this territorial security [under Bolsonaro] Politics modifications a lot. Who will be president in 2026? It might be that individuals desire a various one. The election can alter whatever, and after that we are vulnerable once again. Bolsonaro left us unprotected. We are fretted that it might take place once again: motivating miners to come in, cuts to the evaluation firms, cuts to resources for Indigenous health.

Statuettes of Omama, a Yanomami divine being, were used to 20 Oscar candidates in early March as a project led by Júnior Yanomami to raise awareness of Amazon’s gold. Image thanks to Gil Inoue/ DM9.

Mongabay: What can the Yanomami do to recover the land?

Júnior Hekurari Yanomami: The damage is huge; it will take 20 or 30 years to recover. We require public laws, the federal government needs to make a job to get rid of the mercury from the rivers. Even the source of the rivers has actually been ruined.

Mongabay: What is various about today’s intrusion compared to the intrusion in the 1980 s?

Júnior Hekurari Yanomami: The devices and innovation they utilize today are a lot more effective. The fish were recuperating well [from the last intrusion], however today after the brand-new intrusion there disappear.

Mongabay: What do you consider the reality that authorities took Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites in belongings of prohibited miners on the Yanomami land?

Júnior Hekurari Yanomami: The federal government itself does not have this innovation however the miners do. We ask ourselves, how can that be?

” Indigenous lands are not task centers,” Júnior stated at the Mongabay interview. He requires that the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva administration produces work options for the prohibited miners who are attacking Yanomami area. Image by Felipe Haurelhuk.

Mongabay: Are the unlawful miners truly leaving or simply raking much deeper into the area?

Júnior Hekurari Yanomami: We know that they are leaving, however they will attack once again. They understand that these operations will not be long-term. We are requiring a long-term post of Funai [ the nation’s Indigenous affairs firm] and IBAMA in the neighborhoods. Others have actually gone to Venezuela– you can even see helicopters bringing miners from there– while others have actually gone to other states like Pará to attack Indigenous lands there.

Mongabay: Who funds unlawful mining on the Yanomami land?

Júnior Hekurari Yanomami: There are 80-120 flights a day to the Yanomami land, taking individuals to try to find gold, to leave food, fuel and materials for the miners, for them to damage the forest a lot more. It’s not some bad individual that is running this rip-off. Entrepreneurs guarantee them [prohibited miners] cash, that they’re going to get abundant. It’s the business owners with the helicopters and aircrafts who are getting abundant.

Mongabay: Gold costs are high due to the fact that of worldwide instability driven by the war in Ukraine, implying mining mafias will attempt their luck on Indigenous lands. What requires to be performed in the medium to long term to avoid another disaster?

Júnior Hekurari Yanomami: Indigenous lands are not task. The federal government needs to produce other options for work for these individuals who are getting into.

Mongabay: Do you have a message for the world, for audiences reading this story?

Júnior Hekurari Yanomami: Support the Yanomami individuals and do not purchase gold from Brazil.

Banner image: The Omama statuette, various from the conventional gold-plated Oscar, was shaped on wood. “The Oscar has gold. We understand that lots of gold leaves the Amazon unlawfully for other nations and we wish to reveal the world that this gold has the blood of households that suffered,” Júnior stated. Image thanks to Gil Inoue/ DM9.

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Yanomami crisis triggers action versus prohibited gold in the Amazon

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