March 31, 2023

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SpaceX’s Starlink hardware has been found at illegal mining sites in the Amazon

Sao Paulo (CNN) Five Starlink internet devices found in illegal mining sites in the Amazon The Brazilian Environment Agency said during raids by Brazil’s environmental police on Tuesday.

Starlink is a small, easy-to-use satellite dish made by Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX. Starlink says its equipment can provide “high-speed, low-latency broadband internet in remote and rural locations around the world.”

According to the Environment Agency, the equipment itself is not illegal, but it can be used for illegal activities. Communications can be difficult in the Amazon, and small satellite dishes aid communications between illegal miners.

In this photo provided by Brazil’s Environment Agency, federal agents destroy an illegal mining barge within Yanomami Indigenous Territory, Roraima State, Brazil, Tuesday, March 14, 2023.
An illegal mining camp filmed on February 24, 2023 in Yanomami District, Roraima State, Brazil.

“The aim of the raids in this area of ‚Äč‚Äčorigin is to disrupt supply lines for illegal mining so that it cannot be support and force the intruders to retreat,” the agency said in a statement.

The Yanomami region, which straddles the Brazilian states of Roraima and Amazonas, is supposed to be a protected reserve where mining is illegal. But miners have flooded the area over the past several years as gold prices boom, stripping the natural environment, bringing disease, and in some cases driving out essential health workers.

And a report by the non-governmental Brazilian Social Institute (ISA), based on satellite imagery, found that mines on Yanomami land had increased from four in 2015 to 1,556 by the end of 2021.

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CNN has reached out to SpaceX for comment.

Previous reporting by CNN’s Tara John and Rodrigo Pedroso.