SpaceX’s Starlink devices found in illegal mining sites in the Amazon

By Julia Jones, CNN

Sao Paulo CNN  —  Five Starlink internet devices were found in illegal mining sites in the Amazon during raids by Brazil’s environmental police on Tuesday, the environmental agency said.

Starlink are small, easy-to-use satellite dishes made by Elon Musk’s private rocket company SpaceX. Starlink says its equipment can provide “high-speed, low-latency broadband internet in remote and rural locations across the globe.

The equipment itself is not illegal, but can be used for illegal activities, according to the environmental agency. Communications can be challenging in the Amazon, and the small satellite dishes aided in communications between illegal miners.

In this image provided by Brazil's Environmental Agency, federal agents destroy an illegal mining barge inside Yanomami Indigenous territory, Roraima state, Brazil, Tuesday, March 14, 2023.
An illegal mining camp pictured on February 24, 2023, in Yanomami territory in Roraima State, Brazil.

“The goal of raids in this indigenous territory is to disrupt the supply lines of illegal mining so that it can no longer be supports and force the retreat of the trespassers,” the agency said in a statement.

Yanomami territory, which spans the Brazilian states of Roraima and Amazonas, is supposed to be a protected reservation where mining is illegal. But miners have flooded the area over the last several years as gold prices boomed, stripping the natural environment, bringing diseases, and in some cases driving away vital health workers.

A report by the Brazilian NGO Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), based on satellite imaging, found that mines on Yanomami land had risen from four in 2015 to 1,556 by the end of 2021.

CNN has reached out to SpaceX for comment.

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

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