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Brazil probes possible killings of 'uncontacted' tribe

Brazil probes possible killings of ‘uncontacted’ tribe by gold prospectors

SAO PAULO -Brazilian prosecutors are investigating reports that gold prospectors may have killed members of a so-called uncontacted tribe in the Amazon.

Brazil’s National Indian Foundation asked prosecutors to look into the matter after prospectors were heard discussing an attack on indigenous people who live in the Javari Valley near the border with Peru. The foundation said in a statement Monday that some prospectors have been detained for questioning, but they have not confirmed any deaths.

There is gold in the Amazon, and prospectors have been digging it up for years now, often illegally in rainforests that should be protected. Using fire-hoses and pumps, small crews of five to ten men blast the soil into sludge, then pan it. As gold prices surge, international companies are starting to move in and the artisanal prospectors may become obsolete. A half-dozen men work in a larger Garimpo in the area of itaituba. December 2009 (Roger LeMoynePhoto)

Federal prosecutors confirm that they have opened an investigation, but haven’t given any details.

Survival International says the area is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on Earth. Isolated peoples are particularly vulnerable and indigenous groups in Brazil in general have complained that their way of life is increasingly under threat from land conflicts.

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