Venezuelan authorities are investigating the deaths of six Yanomami Indians in the Amazon.
Four Yanomami adults of the Alto Orinoco region are thought to have died after drinking water contaminated by illegal gold miners, and two Yanomami children are believed to have been killed by unidentified people, using a liquid substance.
Prosecutors are conducting an investigation to determine how and why the deaths occurred.
The Yanomami Indians number approximately 32,000 and they live in the rainforests and mountains of southern Venezuela and northern Brazil.
Gold-miners are working illegally on Yanomami land, and reports suggest that the number of miners there is increasing.
The miners threaten the lives of the Yanomami by increasing the likelihood of violence and introducing diseases to which the Yanomami have little resistance. Mercury which is used to separate the gold pollutes the water the Yanomami drink and bathe in, and the noise from the dredges and generators in the camps frightens off the game the Yanomami hunt – an important source of protein in their diet.
The Yanomami suffered hugely when up to 40,000 miners invaded their land in the 1980s, killing twenty percent of the Yanomami population.
Survival has written to the Venezuelan and Brazilian governments, urging them to take all necessary measures to ensure that any illegal miners are removed from Yanomami land and that no more miners invade in the future.