Gold rush draws swarm of illegal miners in Brazil

Hundreds of illegal miners are dredging for gold along the Madeira River in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

A Reuters witness spotted plumes of exhaust coming from the rafts, indicating they are vacuuming the riverbed for the precious metal.

No one is stopping them, as state and federal authorities dispute who is responsible.

Danicley Aguiar is an activist with Greenpeace and says nearly 300 have been there for at least two weeks.

"The impression that all this gives to everyone who looks on from afar is that the Amazon has truly become a free-for-all, where everyone does what they want, when they want to. There is no longer a discussion on whether the state or the law will prevail. In the spiral of destruction that the Amazon is facing, this is something that I’ve never seen before in the region, and I’ve seen a lot.”

Rumors triggered the gold rush a few weeks ago, as world leaders gathered at the UN climate conference in Glasgow.

While there, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro vowed to step up protection of the Amazon rainforest.

But it seems no one is willing to crack down on this latest violation.

A spokesperson for Brazil’s environmental protection agency, Ibama, said responsibility rests with Amazonas state authorities, or IPAAM.

IPAAM said in a statement that rafts were under federal jurisdiction, so it's up to the National Mining Agency to crackdown.

The National Mining Agency said it only oversees legal mining, while criminal activity was a matter for the police and courts.

Federal police said it was looking into how to deal with the problem.