Musk brought Starlink Internet to Brazil’s Amazon, criminals love it
ATALAIA DO NORTE, Brazil (AP) — Brazilian federal agents aboard three helicopters descended on an illegal mining site on Tuesday in the Amazon rainforest. They were met with gunfire, and the shooters escaped, leaving behind an increasingly familiar find for authorities: Starlink Internet units.
Starlink, a division of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, has almost 4,000 low-orbit satellites across the skies, connecting people in remote corners of the Amazon and providing a crucial advantage to Ukrainian forces on the battlefield.
The lightweight, high-speed Internet system has also proved a new and valuable tool for Brazil’s illegal miners, with reliable service for coordinating logistics, receiving advance warning of law enforcement raids and making payments without flying back to the city.
Agents from the Brazilian environment agency’s special inspection group and the federal highway police rapid response group on Tuesday found one Starlink terminal up and running next to a pit, an officer who participated in the raid told The Associated Press.
He spoke on condition of anonymity over concerns for his personal safety.
They also seized mercury, gold and ammunition, and destroyed fuel and other equipment used by miners in an area known as Ouro Mil, controlled by Brazil´s most feared criminal organisation, known as the First Command of the Capital, according to federal investigations.
Since taking office this year, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has sought to crack down on environmental violations, particularly illegal mining in Yanomami land, Brazil’s largest Indigenous territory.
In recent years, an estimated 20,000 prospectors contaminated vital waterways with mercury used to separate gold.
They have disrupted traditional Indigenous life, brought disease and caused widespread famine.
Starlink – which first became available in Brazil last year and has spread rapidly – solved those problems. Installation is do-it-yourself, the equipment works even on the move, speed is as fast as in Brazil´s large cities and it works during storms.
Starlink has long viewed the Amazon as an opportunity. That was underscored by Musk’s visit to Brazil last May, when he met with then-President Jair Bolsonaro.
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