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Pinterest For the Munduruku, the Tropas is now a dead river, muddy and toxic with mercury. Named Watch Post the Portuguese acronym is PV , the village has been swallowed by the heavy equipment of hundreds of illegal gold miners called garimpeiros. What was once a few huts hidden in the Amazon forest now resembles a bombed battlefield.
In January, this reporter was the only non-indigenous member of a warrior party sent to PV Village to reclaim it from the miners. The expedition navigated the entire km length of the Tropas River. For the Munduruku, the Tropas is now a dead river, muddy and toxic with mercury. Around PV Village, the waters are lined by strips of barren land, fallen trees, huge holes dug by excavators, scattered huts and unpaved roads used by motorcycles, tractors and quadbikes. But it is all gone due to the machines and pollution.
The air bridge transports fuel, food, liquor, illegal drugs, mechanical parts, mercury, sex workers, merchants — and a lot of gold. Despite the industrial scale, the whole process is illegal. According to Brazilian law, mining in indigenous lands is a federal crime.
In practice, though, large swaths of the Amazon, including federal protected areas, have increasingly become stateless zones dominated by gold, land-grabbers and criminal timber rings. Between and , the number of illegal mines discovered in the forest by the official radar monitoring system rose from to Federal police and environmental agents are outnumbered and hampered by budget restraints.
Itaituba, a city of 98, people, elected a former gold miner as mayor. The result is a breakdown between federal and local enforcement. In indigenous lands, the void left by the state is even more dramatic. With no allies, the Munduruku have decided to take matters into their own hands.