That gadget of yours may have illegally mined gold from the Amazon

The supply chains of the planet’s most valuable electronics and electric car companies are being supplied by two refineries under investigation for their ties to illegal mining

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 20 September 2022
Ilegal gold mine at Cachoeira do Piriá, a village near Viseu, Amazon, Pará State, Brazil. Photo: iStock
Ilegal gold mine at Cachoeira do Piriá, a village near Viseu, Amazon, Pará State, Brazil. Photo: iStock Ilegal gold mine at Cachoeira do Piriá, a village near Viseu, Amazon, Pará State, Brazil. Photo: iStock

The supply chains of technology, electronics and automotive leaders, such as Apple, Tesla, Samsung, Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors, could be tainted by Brazilian gold illegally mined in Amazonian indigenous territories, a new report published September 19, 2022, has claimed.

Complicity in Destruction V: Blood Gold has been compiled by the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB) and non-profit Amazon Watch. It said the companies were being supplied by two refineries under investigation by Brazilian authorities for their ties to illegal mining.

The report also added that nearly all gold refineries in countries that imported the majority of Brazil’s gold — Canada, Switzerland and Italy — were also listed among the companies’ suppliers.

This implied that their products could include this conflict commodity. It is estimated that 47 per cent of Brazil’s gold exports are of illegal origin, a statement by Amazon Watch said.

Illegal Amazon gold mining has soared under Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro government, the statement noted. Its impacts on highly preserved indigenous territories — particularly those of the Yanomami, Munduruku, and Kayapó peoples — were immeasurable.

Miners have been scouring streams and riverbeds, causing deforestation and polluting critical freshwater resources with sediments and toxic mercury.

The statement said:

These activities have driven a spike in deadly illnesses such as malaria and mercury poisoning, and social conflicts such as violence, drug trafficking, the sexual predation of Indigenous women and girls, and murder.

Indigenous communities were suffering a multifaceted emergency, as their health, safety, territories, and cultural integrity were under assault, it added.

“We are witnessing the destruction of ecosystems and entire communities and people are dying as a result of this deadly industry. [Mining’s] viability requires a consumer market that finances its destruction,” Dinamam Tuxá, APIB’s executive coordinator, was quoted as saying in the statement.

“This exposé provides ground breaking findings that identify leading companies potentially complicit in illegal Amazon mining. We now call on these corporate giants to prove that they are not buying gold extracted from our lands,” Tuxá added.

“The Indigenous peoples of the Amazon are the true guardians of the forest and our rights must be respected,” Toya Manchineri, coordinator with the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, said.

“Mining is one of today’s main causes of violence against Indigenous peoples and of the destruction of forests and rivers. No company that is involved in any way with gold mined from Indigenous lands can be considered an ally in the fight against climate change,” Manchineri added.

Christian Poirier, Amazon Watch program director, said household brands in the technology, electronics and electric vehicle sector must not enable the disastrous and tragic impacts of illegal gold mining on the Amazon and its peoples.

“Their failure to act in the face of proven supply chain links to this illicit industry will expose them to financial, legal, and reputational risks. These companies must therefore prove that they do not buy illegal gold from Brazil,” Poirier said.

Brazil heads to the polls on October 2 when incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro will square off against former president and challenger, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

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