In Brazil, Greenpeace accuses Hyundai of being complicit in illegal gold panning in the Amazon

The South Korean automaker supplies diggers to illegal gold diggers, machines that considerably facilitate the work of these gold diggers to the detriment of the Amazon rainforest.

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An illegal mining camp, in Yanomami territory in the state of Roraima, Brazil, in February 2023. (ALAN CHAVES / AFP)

In Brazil, the non-governmental organization (NGO) Greenpeace denounces the essential role of Hyundai in the explosion of illegal gold panning in the Amazon. The brand of the South Korean multinational is present on many hydraulic excavators that make life easier for illegal gold miners who are rampant in the Amazon rainforest.

“These kind of machines destroy much faster, says Julio Yekw’ana, who lives in one of the areas most affected by gold mining. A backhoe is the equivalent of about 40 workers. It goes suddenly much faster, we are very worried. They will finish off our forest.”

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In recent years, gold panning has in fact no longer been artisanal. All of this is financed by very wealthy investors, who can afford to transport these multi-ton machines to sites with very difficult access. Hyundai is not the only company to be implicated, but it seems to have the preference of gold panners. Of the 176 machines listed by Greenpeace on indigenous territories, 75 were of the Hyundai brand. These lands are those of the Kayapo, the Munduruku and the Yanomami, this is where 90% of the illegal gold panning in the Amazon is concentrated.

Excavator manufacturers say they are powerless

Greenpeace investigations show that authorized Hyundai dealers have established facilities in the vicinity of indigenous lands ravaged by illegal gold mining. The market is juicy, each machine costs around 200,000 euros.

“The most urgent action for Hyundai and other companies is to stop doing business in areas at high risk of deforestation, asks Leandro Ramos of Greenpeace, until we are able to guarantee that these machines are not used to promote the destruction of indigenous lands in the Amazon.”

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Excavator manufacturers claim that they cannot monitor the use made of excavators once they are sold. In reality, GPS would make it possible to verify the areas where these machines operate. Companies could also carry out more rigorous checks on the profile of buyers.

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