Illegal Copper Mine Shutdown in Brazil

Published: 01 February 2024

Brazil Illegal Copper MiningAuthorities found seven large structures and 14 extraction points in the mine in the municipality of Canaã dos Carajás, Pará. (Photo: Polícia Federal, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

Brazilian authorities closed on Tuesday an illegal copper mine that operated with 26 workers in slave-like conditions. Two Brazilians and a Chinese were identified as the ones running the mine, which had up to 14 illegal extraction points. Police presumes the extracted ore was taken to China.

The illegal mining site was located in a village in the municipality of Canaã dos Carajás, almost 800 km from Belém, the capital of the Brazilian state of Pará, in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. Authorities found there seven large structures supporting the illegal exploitation and 14 illegal extraction points. That’s where the 26 people were found in degrading conditions similar to slavery.

Police also seized 100 explosive casings, one roll of detonating cord, 15 motors, five hammers, three generators, three chainsaws, one backhoe and one drill rig valued at more than US$200,000. During the raid a fourth person was arrested for illegal possession of explosives.

The explosives were used to open holes up to 10 meters deep and the workers risked their lives to get down and extract the copper, authorities said.

At the time of the operation, the mining managers were not on site but, according to the report, they will be held responsible for the crimes of illegal mineral extraction, environmental crimes related to illegal mining and keeping workers under slavery-like conditions.

The workers' testimonies were taken on site and they were allowed to return to their homes. They now join the nine workers rescued in August 2023 at the same mine, also in precarious conditions.

Illegal mining in the region causes environmental damage that seriously affects local biodiversity. The copper mines are concentrated in the municipalities of Marabá and Canaã dos Carajás, in the state of Pará.