HomeNewsBrazil's Mining Regulator No Match For Illegal Gold Rush

The Brazilian agency that inspects mining sites and seizes illegally mined ore is vastly understaffed, a consequence of a government that has given free rein to the mining sector.

On March 2, O Globo reported that Brazil’s National Mining Agency (Agência Nacional de Mineração — ANM) currently employs just 250 inspectors to monitor some 35,000 mining sites across the country. Field inspections also have been severely curtailed, due to health risks of traveling to COVID-19 hotspots.

SEE ALSO: Brazil’s Dirty List – Not Making a Dent in Modern Slavery

The ANM is tasked with ensuring that legal mining companies stay within their production quotas and use approved technology to extract minerals, including iron ore, copper and gold.

Debora Puccini, director of the ANM, told O Globo that its inspectors also work with police to shut down illegal mines but that such operations are quick to reappear once authorities have left the area.

Puccini admitted that greater enforcement efforts are needed, before adding that the agency hoped to use drones and satellites to complement monitoring efforts.

InSight Crime Analysis

Under-resourced, Brazil's mining agency faces an uphill battle, given the sheer size of the country's mining regions and the efforts by its President Jair Bolsonaro to ease mining regulations in protected regions.

The country's national parks -- in which environmental crime is rife -- cover some 25 million hectares. In the Brazilian Amazon alone, more than 450 illegal mining sites have been uncovered, according to research by the Amazon Geo-Referenced Socio-Environmental Information Network.

SEE ALSO: Brazil Cracking Down on Rising Illegal Diamond Mining

Skyrocketing gold prices and a lack of employment opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic have also driven up the number of illegal miners operating in Brazil, Puccini previously said.

Conservationists say President Bolsonaro is deliberately handcuffing agencies, like Puccini's, that protect the environment and natural resources. Brazil’s environmental agency (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis — IBAMA) has seen its budget and staff slashed under Bolsonaro, with employees complaining that the government has hampered enforcement efforts in recent years.

The Ministry of the Environment's administrative arm (Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade — ICMBio) also reportedly employs a handful of agents to oversee vast expanses of protected land.

The lack of resources sets these agencies up for failure and corruption. For example, inspectors at ANM are charged with stopping the use of slave labor in mines. But a recent investigation by Mongabay revealed that a family known for using slave labor to mine gold in Brazil’s northern state of Pará had continued to obtain permits from the ANM, despite being caught enslaving workers in a 2018 raid.

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

COCA / 29 SEP 2021

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

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 2 JUN 2022

Illegal gold mining drives the destruction of Peru's Amazon, where fortune seekers strip forests and leave behind poisonous pools of…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 23 JUN 2022

The loosening of firearm restrictions in Brazil is creating new channels for criminal groups to obtain weapons via legal means…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Contributes Expertise Across the Board 

22 SEP 2023

This week InSight Crime investigators Sara García and María Fernanda Ramírez led a discussion of the challenges posed by Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s “Total Peace” plan within urban contexts. The…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Cited in New Colombia Drug Policy Plan

15 SEP 2023

InSight Crime’s work on emerging coca cultivation in Honduras, Guatemala, and Venezuela was cited in the Colombian government’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Discusses Honduran Women's Prison Investigation

8 SEP 2023

Investigators Victoria Dittmar and María Fernanda Ramírez discussed InSight Crime’s recent investigation of a massacre in Honduras’ only women’s prison in a Twitter Spaces event on…

THE ORGANIZATION

Human Trafficking Investigation Published in Leading Mexican Newspaper

1 SEP 2023

Leading Mexican media outlet El Universal featured our most recent investigation, “The Geography of Human Trafficking on the US-Mexico Border,” on the front page of its August 30…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime's Coverage of Ecuador Leads International Debate

25 AUG 2023

This week, Jeremy McDermott, co-director of InSight Crime, was interviewed by La Sexta, a Spanish television channel, about the situation of extreme violence and insecurity in Ecuador…