November 7, 1998
Illegal mining thrives in Brazil Indian territory

                  BRASILIA (Reuters) - A deadly clash between isolated Brazilian Indians
                  and wildcat gold miners this week showed how little control the government
                  has over illegal mining in the dense jungle near Suriname, officials said

                  Indians from an unknown tribe killed 11 miners in the distant region Tuesday
                  in retaliation for a fire in which an Indian woman and baby died, the
                  government's Indian Foundation (FUNAI) said.

                  It was the first known clash between illegal miners, known as "garimpeiros,"
                  and indigenous people in the Tumucumaque reservation straddling the
                  northern Brazilian states of Para and Amapa, according to FUNAI.

                  Its efforts to investigate the killings were hampered by a spending freeze
                  announced as part of a fiscal austerity plan to save Brazil's economy.
                  FUNAI's non-essential activities have been paralyzed.

                  The local governments of Para and Amapa eventually provided a plane and
                  fuel to fly federal police investigators and FUNAI officials into the
                  reservation, which stretches over 3 million hectares, an area the size of

                  It is home to some 2,700 Indians of the Wayana, Aparai, Tiriyo, Kaxuyana
                  and Hixkaryana tribes and an unknown number who have never made
                  contact with the outside world.

                  The region forms part of the so-called green stone belt, potentially rich in
                  minerals such as gold, iron, cobalt and copper, said Jose Armindo Pinto,
                  head of the Amapa state branch of the National Department of Mineral

                  "Illegal mining has been known in the region of Amapa for at least a century,"
                  Pinto told Reuters by telephone from the state capital Macapa. "It's crawling
                  with garimpeiros who travel through the jungle, mainly between Suriname
                  and French Guyana."

                  Seven mining companies have applied to the department for authorization to
                  start prospecting for minerals close to the Tumucumaque reservation, he
                  said. Initial approval depends on FUNAI and the federal Strategic Affairs

                  The government's difficulty in sending investigators to the remote region,
                  which is only accessible by boat and plane, suggested it had no way of
                  controlling illegal mining, a RomanCatholic mission group said Friday.

                  "This fact reveals that the federal police does not have the tools to monitor
                  indigenous areas and that (FUNAI) is in no condition whatsoever to control
                  the flux of invaders who enter the indigenous territory looking for gold," the
                  Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) said in a statement.

                  Indigenous peoples total 330,000 of Brazil's population of 160 million.
                  Some, like the famous Yanomami, have been driven to the verge of
                  extinction by the invasions of miners who bringpollution and disease.

                  FUNAI is running a skeleton operation to provide essential food and
                  medicine to Indian villages through emergency funds of $1.6 million released
                  by the government last month.

                  Even if money were available, the lack of physical borders between Brazil,
                  Suriname and French Guyana -- a region covered in thick jungle -- made it
                  almost impossible to detect the movements of garimpeiros, said Pinto.

                  The lack of a clear border around the Tumucumaque reservation meant they
                  could have strayed there by mistake, he said.

                  "You have a primitive culture confronting a culture of poverty in the middle
                  of the forest. That's when the lupus homini, the darker side of man,
                  emerges," Pinto said.

                  Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.