The decision by the Korean company HD Hyundai Construction Equipment is an important step in the fight to protect the Amazon and Indigenous Lands from illegal gold mining.
The fight against illegal mining in the Amazon isn’t new. Indigenous People have been standing up to protect their territories for generations, and yet the expansion of the activity has only grown in recent years. But the demands from Indigenous People and civil society against this destructive activity are finally getting heard.
On April 12, 2023, a report released in partnership between Greenpeace Brazil and Greenpeace East Asia highlighted how excavators have been a key element in the expansion of illegal gold mining in Indigenous Territories in the Amazon, and how the activity has been pressuring and impacting Indigenous Peoples’ way of life. The investigation identified, between 2021 and 2023, 176 excavators on the Kayapó, Munduruku and Yanomami territories, and that 43% of those were manufactured by Korean-based company HD Hyundai Construction Equipment (HD HCE).
HCE’s excavators were by far the most popular brand amongst illegal miners, as documented by the report. Our investigation also identified HCE’s authorized dealers have recently established facilities in the vicinity of those Indigenous Lands, which are the ones most impacted by illegal gold mining. In a local TV interview, a representative from an HD HCE authorized dealership said that he “had convinced ‘the Koreans’ to invest” in a region renowned for its informal or illegal gold mining.
To mark the release of the report and pressure the company to take action, spokespeople from Greenpeace Brazil and Greenpeace East Asia, and Doto Takak Ire, an Indigenous Leader from the Kayapó People, spoke at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea. On the other side of the world, activists from Greenpeace Brazil and Indigenous Leaders also took action by demonstrating in front of Hyundai Construction Equipments factory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, demanding the company be part of the solution and prevent their excavators from being sold to illegal miners in the Amazon.
In a statement published on their website today, HCE recognized that the destruction of the Amazon and the violation of Indigenous Peoples’ way of life is a serious problem and pledged to make efforts to protect the Amazon. The company will stop selling its heavy machinery in the states of Amazonas, Roraima and Pará, where the Kayapó, Munduruku and Yanomami Indigenous Territories are located, as well as cease offering maintenance and supplying parts in the region until its efforts to strengthen its sales process and compliance system are effective in preventing its excavators from being used for illegal gold mining. In addition, HCE will terminate the contract with the BMG dealership making deals with illegal miners, and has committed to doing everything possible to carry out activities to protect the Amazon and Indigenous Peoples, including cooperating with the Brazilian government where necessary.
This is a huge victory for the Indigenous People who have been struggling to keep miners out of their territories for decades and only saw their lands being more and more devastated. It shows that public pressure works. We couldn’t have done it without the support of every single one of you, who highlighted the importance of this issue to your friends and family on social media and also pressured HCE through our petition.
HCE’s announcement makes it clear that it is possible and feasible for the private sector to commit to protecting the environment and the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon, and that companies can put people and the planet over profits.
But Hyundai Construction Equipment is not the only company with excavators being used in illegal gold mining, and the private sector isn’t the only one who needs to take action to protect the Amazon. It is urgent that other manufacturers of excavators follow suit and also take the necessary measures to prevent their machinery from being used in the destruction of the forest and the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples. The fight against mining is long and this is a first step. Beyond the private sector, we also need the Brazilian government to define a long term solution to prevent gold mining from expanding on Indigenous Lands.
Greenpeace will continue its campaign to fight for the protection of the forest and to guarantee that excavators are no longer used in illegal gold mining in the Amazon, and that the activity is finally eradicated from Indigenous Lands.