Aerial flyovers and satellite mapping analysis carried out by Greenpeace Brazil between 2021 and 2023 found at least 176 hydraulic excavators used by illegal miners in indigenous lands in the Brazilian Amazon. Of these, 75, or 43%, were manufactured by Hyundai, which was “by far” the largest proportion found.

Greenpeace said that its report “is a call to heavy machinery manufacturers to become part of the solution and take measures that prevent their equipment being used in illegal activities that yield repeated violations of human rights”.

The report analysed data from mining activity within the Yanomami, Munduruku and Kayapó indigenous territories, which account for more than 95% of mined indigenous areas in the Amazon.

Leader of the Kayapó People, Doto Takak Ire said that the investigation conducted by Greenpeace also found that “Hyundai’s authorized dealers have recently established facilities in the vicinity of the Indigenous lands most impacted by illegal mining”.

“Greenpeace Brazil and Greenpeace East Asia demand HD HCE [HD Hyundai Construction Equipment] to commit to a transparency plan to monitor, verify and report the use of their excavators in order to stop the destruction of Indigenous lands and protected areas in the Amazon.

“HD HCE already has a remote management system that uses GPS to collect data about its machines and can delimit virtual borders for the equipment’s work area. The company must use its existing technology to keep their machines out of Indigenous lands.”

Mining causing “state of emergency” in the Amazon

According to Greenpeace, between 2019 and 2021 the average area destroyed by illegal mining within indigenous lands was more than triple the average of the previous ten years.

Danicley de Aguiar, senior Amazon Forest campaigner for Greenpeace Brazil, said: “The use of heavy machinery has been fundamental in the explosive expansion of illegal mining on Indigenous lands. The excavators have multiplied the exploration capacity and can do, in a matter of hours, a job that would take weeks to be done manually.”

“Hyundai machines are being used to destroy, at an alarming rate, a vital ecosystem not just for the Indigenous Peoples who live on these lands, but for the entire planet.”

The Brazilian government and activist groups have both condemned illegal mining in the Amazon as destructive to natural resources, the environment, and indigenous communities, with children and the elderly the worst affected.

In January, Brazilian President Lula and indigenous affairs minister Sonia Guajajara declared a medical emergency for indigenous communities living in the Yanomami territory. This followed a sharp increase in illegal mining in the area, creating sudden spikes in disease, malnutrition, and death. The government set up a task force to provide medical aid to indigenous people affected by the impacts of illegal mining.

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