HomeNewsBriefBrazil Cracking Down on Rising Illegal Diamond Mining
BRIEF

Brazil Cracking Down on Rising Illegal Diamond Mining

BRAZIL / 13 OCT 2020 BY ISAAC NORRIS EN

A recent operation in northern Brazil has put a spotlight on the country’s often overlooked illegal diamond trade, but authorities are only scratching the surface of the fast-growing criminal economy.

In late September, Brazilian authorities launched a massive operation to curb illegal diamond mining in the Roosevelt Indigenous reserve between the northern states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso, Globo reported. The operation consisted of raids across eight states that targeted illegal miners, intermediaries who valued the diamonds, companies selling them and even Indigenous residents who collaborated with the miners.

According to Globo, the large-scale investigation began in 2018 after local police caught three people smuggling diamonds from the reserve. Over the next two years, investigators uncovered a transnational criminal network estimated to move about $20 million per month from illegal mining. Many of the diamonds were sold in jewelry shops, either domestically in São Paulo, or abroad in France, Switzerland and Italy.

A recorded conversation from a tapped call between two miners in May 2019 revealed some of the network's inner workings. In one part of the conversation, the miners speak about certain diamonds being sold for $5 million in Switzerland, according to G1 Globo, which gained exclusive access to the wiretap transcript.

InSight Crime Analysis

While Brazil’s illegal gold mining industry has been extensively documented, the illegal mining and black market trade of diamonds has received less attention.

The Roosevelt Indigenous reserve has one of the world’s largest diamond deposits and has been attracting miners since 1999, when diamonds were first discovered there. Current law does not allow mining on indigenous lands. But President Jair Bolsonaro has vowed to legalize commercial mining on the grounds, which will likely lead to a significant increase in mining activities.

According to Brazil's Research and Mineral Resources Company (Companhia de Pesquisa de Recursos Minerais - CPRM), the Lajes mine, the largest in the Roosevelt reserve, could produce 1 million carats of diamonds per year, valued at over $200 million.

Brazil’s diamond mining industry has seen significant growth. According to data from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, the South American country produced 31,800 carats of diamonds, worth $1.4 million, in 2015. Three years later, in 2018, the country produced 250,940 carats, worth $54.9 million -- an increase of 689 percent.

But the expansion of illegal mining in Brazil has caused widespread environmental damage in the Amazon. Deforestation linked to illegal mining increased by 80 percent in the first four months of this year when compared to the same period in 2019, Greenpeace reported. And there are currently more than 450 illegal mining sites in the Brazilian Amazon, according to research by the Amazon Geo-Referenced Socio-Environmental Information Network.

Given Brazil’s vast and largely untapped diamond reserves, the country is at risk of becoming embroiled in the “blood diamond” trade, as are neighboring Venezuela and Guyana.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 12 AUG 2022

Uruguayan authorities have dismantled a smuggling ring moving weapons into the country from Argentina.

COCA / 1 SEP 2021

Emerging from almost six decades of civil conflict, the world’s number one cocaine producer has paid scant attention to environmental…

COCA / 29 SEP 2021

The presence of corrupt actors who have a vested interest in allowing environmental crime to happen coupled with an overall…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…