The elite commandos who risk their lives to protect the Amazon from illegal gold mining

Illegal gold mining is a billion dollar industry, but fighting against it is just one small team of heavily armed Brazilian police officers. ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy reports on the elite commando team tasked with preventing the destruction of the Amazon.

In a remote base deep in the Amazon, twelve men prepare for a mission into one of most dangerous parts of the world. 

They are a commando unit of Brazil’s Federal Police, tasked with destroying the criminal networks destroying the Amazon rainforest. 

They dress as if they are going into battle and in reality they are.

They are heavily armed and they need to be. The forces of destruction are more than a match for the force of law.

Commando unit on patrol in the Amazon rainforest. Credit: Gabriel Chaim

These guardians of the Amazon are in a battle they cannot win. They are overwhelmed and overworked, under-funded and often under attack. 

Twelve men and a helicopter against a multi-billion pound industry. 

The rainforest is crucial to curbing global warming yet each day an area equivalent to 2,000 football pitches is destroyed. 

The unit takes their fight to the air, land and on the water as they seek to crackdown on illegal gold mining. Credit: ITV News

The commando team are tasked with destroying the illegal gold mines which tear into the land and pump toxic waste into the rivers.

They don’t have enough staff or enough resources but they are driven by the belief their work matters for their country and the world. 

Their belief is not shared by Brazil’s government or its president, Jair Bolsonaro, and so they work with meagre resources. 

Brazilian Federal Police battling against illegal gold mining operations have very meagre resources. Credit: Gabriel Chaim

Their task is to destroy the mines but because they only have one helicopter they can’t detain the miners they find or hold them to account.

All they can do is banish them from the site and then destroy it. They use the miners' own chain saws and petrol to cut down and burn the camps.

ITV News correspondent Emma Murphy is in Sao Paolo, as Brazil's election race gets underway

They destroy the pumps and boats and anything else that can be used in their mining process. 

Their aim is to break the link between the mine and the market, but it is a never-ending task. As soon as they are gone the mines spring back to life. 

They say they will never tire of their work and return to the day after day.

They are the defenders of the world’s richest ecosystem against the quest for riches - which in the end will do damage no amount of money can protect from.

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