The Jamanxim National Forest in the state of Pará in northern Brazil has been devastated by illegal gold mining. Antonio Scorza/AFP via Getty Images
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Your iPhone may contain gold linked to Amazon deforestation.
A new report published Monday by Amazon Watch and the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) found gold used by major tech and auto companies, including Apple, Tesla, Samsung, Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors. It has been illegally mined from indigenous lands in the Brazilian Amazon.
“We are seeing the destruction of ecosystems and entire communities and people are dying because of this deadly industry,” APBB Executive Coordinating Director Dynam Tux said in an Amazon Watch press release. “[Mining’s] Viability requires a consumer market to cover the loss. This exposé presents new findings that identify companies at the forefront of illegal Amazon mining. Now we are asking these giant companies to make sure they are not buying the gold that comes out of our land.
The report titled Blood Gold indicated that two refineries in the supply chain of major electronics and automotive companies are being investigated for using illegally mined gold. These refineries are Chimet in Italy and Marsam in Brazil.
The link between Chimet and illegal mining was revealed in July by Reporter Brasil, according to Reuters. According to documents obtained by the press office, Brazilian Federal Police allege that the refinery received millions of dollars worth of gold from a trader known as CHM do Brasil, allegedly obtained illegally. Initial reports indicated that tech giants Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple and Microsoft all had Chimet in their supply chains. A recent report indicated that Chimet’s gold came from the native territory of Kayapo.
Another refinery listed in the new report was Marsam in Brazil. This refinery, FD Gold, is accused of using illegally obtained gold from Munduruku and Yanommi states.
Gold is commonly used in the wiring and circuit boards of electrical products, including computers, smartphones and electric vehicles. But when illegally extracted from indigenous lands, it can cause a lot of environmental damage and human rights violations.
Alessandra Korap Munduruku, president of the Munduruku Parish Association, said in a press release: “Currently, we are experiencing terrible conflicts in our state where many land invaders have been introduced by miners. “Illegal mining pollutes rivers with mercury, and mercury pollutes the fish and our bodies. Mining kills people and displaces them from the land. He only knows how to destroy.
Munduruku and Tuksa were two of four panelists who announced the findings at an event as part of Climate Week NYC on Monday. Indigenous leaders traveled to New York to urge major brands like those listed in the report to stop profiting from Amazon’s loss, The Guardian reported.
“Sometimes I wonder why I’m leaving. I’m tired of saying the same thing and things are moving too slowly,” Domingo Paez, a member of the Achuar people in the Ecuadorian Amazon, told the Guardian. But I have met many people in the government and youth activists who say we need to act and this is urgent. “When I hear people say that, it gives me hope that things are changing,” he said.
In Brazil, the Amazon and its indigenous communities are particularly threatened now that right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies seek to legalize mining in indigenous territories, the report said. Illegal mining has already increased during his tenure, with the country’s illegal gold production rising 23 percent in his first two years in office, Brazilian sustainability research think tank Istituto Escolas told Reuters.
“A company that buys gold from Brazil knows there’s a big risk in buying illegal gold – Amazon blood gold,” Escolhas’ Larisa Rodríguez told Reuters.
Between 2015 and 2020, 47 percent of the gold produced in Brazil was obtained illegally, according to the report.