Small gold miners that have been engaged in illegal pits in the Amazon rainforest blocked a vital route for grains transportation in Brazil’s Para state Monday, opposing a crackdown by the federal government, police said.
The miners, mostly residents of Moraes Almeida, a district in the Itaitub province that’s in the middle of an environmental crisis because of widespread fires in the forests circling it, blocked the BR-163 federal road. The route is used by commodities merchants to transport corn and soybeans from Mato Grosso farms to Tapajós River port in Para.
The police said miners were protesting recent attacks from Brazil’s environmental defense crews that led to capture and destruction of apparatus found in protected areas inside the forests, where mining activity was occurring.
Per the police, miners are asking the federal government to cease those raids and halt the destruction of the apparatus. They have further requested the federal government to legalize some mining areas in the region that might enable small miners to work.
Corn transports from the Tapajós River port at Itaituba are in full swing since Mato Grosso recently finished harvesting its main crop of the cereal. Brazil is exporting a record quantity of corn this year, after a bumper harvest.
Illegal mining is one of the factors green organizations blame for the killing of the rainforest. Unlawful logging and some clearing for agriculture and livestock are different actions seen as triggers of deforestation.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro had pledged to legalize some regions for small and large-scale mining activities in northern Brazil. His comments previously could have boosted illegal mining in the Amazon.
Police said it was not clear when rallies would end. It said some cars were allowed to cross the protest occasionally.