A Supreme Court judge in Brazil has granted an injunction for a crackdown on illegal gold mining. The government now has 90 days to establish a new regulatory framework.
The injunction by Justice Gilmar Mendes suspends the currently legal practice of buyers accepting the origin of purchased gold based on paper receipts and the word of the seller.
The decision supports moves to reduce the amount of gold illegally mined on indigenous lands or in environmentally protected areas.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has vowed to crack down on illegal gold mining practices including mining without authorisation, money laundering and usurping property without legal authorisation.
Last week, Brazil’s tax authority mandated for new legislation that would require electronic tax receipts to prove the origin of gold in place of the currently used, easily-forged paper copies. The law comes into place on 3 July.
Mendes said on Tuesday: “This spurious consortium formed by illegal miners and criminal organizations must be stopped as soon as possible”.
The injunction goes into effect immediately, but needs approval by the full court to become permanent. The completed document will go for review by Lula next week.
Illegal gold mining in Brazil
Earlier this year Lula’s government declared a medical emergency after illegal, or “wildcat”, gold miners were held responsible for growing levels of malaria and mercury poisoning among the region’s indigenous communities.
Miners were attributed with bringing diseases to local populations that had not been previously exposed to them. Lawmakers also blamed illegal mining for the contamination of water sources with mercury from mine tailings.
Around half of Brazil’s gold exports are estimated to be illegally mined. In 2013, a law was passed which deemed the word of sellers sufficient to determine the origin of gold mined in Brazil.
Former president Jair Bolsonaro encouraged wildcat mining as part of a number of measures to increase economic exploitation of the Amazon rainforest. Bolsonaro’s Program to Support the Development of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining sought to promote “sustainable regional and national development”.
During the Bolsonaro administration, the number of children who died from preventable causes in the remote Yanomami Indigenous Territory increased by 29%. Local rights publication Sumauma attributes this to the presence of illegal miners.