Are Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites being used for illegal activity in the Amazon rainforest? It seems so, according to recent reports by Brazilian federal agents. The agents found a Starlink internet unit, a product of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, at an illegal mining site in the heart of the rainforest.
Illegal miners have been using the Starlink internet system as a valuable tool for coordinating logistics, receiving advance warning of law enforcement raids, and making payments without having to fly back to the city. Before Starlink, miners had to send a technician to install a heavy, fixed antenna that couldn’t be carried off when mining sites moved or were raided. The connection was slow and unstable, especially on rainy days.
But now, with Starlink’s do-it-yourself installation and equipment that works even on the move, miners are finding that they have a reliable high-speed internet connection in remote locations. This is not only helping them in their illegal activities but also other businesses and government agencies in the area.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been cracking down on environmental violations, particularly illegal mining in Yanomami land, Brazil’s largest Indigenous territory. The environment agency, Ibama, has seized seven Starlink terminals in Yanomami land over the past five weeks, indicating that the government is taking the issue seriously.
Interestingly, while Starlink has proven to be a game-changer for illegal mining activities, the project with the Brazilian government to launch Starlink for 19,000 unconnected schools in rural areas and environmental monitoring of the Amazon has not advanced. SpaceX and the communications ministry haven’t signed any contract yet.
However, despite the government project not moving forward, Starlink has taken off in the region and has begun ushering in change. Rubeney de Castro Alves, for example, installed Starlink at his hotel, where he can conduct video calls, make bank transfers, and watch Netflix. It seems that Starlink is providing a much-needed boost to businesses and people in remote areas who have been left behind by traditional internet service providers.
But the question remains: should we be concerned that a technology designed to provide internet access to the world is being used for illegal activities in one of the world’s most ecologically sensitive areas? It’s a thought-provoking issue that raises questions about the role of technology in our society and its impact on the environment. As we continue to rely more on technology, it’s important to consider its consequences and ensure that it’s being used for the greater good.
Maisonnave, F. (2023, March 16). Musk brought internet to Brazil’s Amazon. criminals love it. AP NEWS. Retrieved March 19, 2023, from https://apnews.com/article/amazon-musk-starlink-gold-mining-yanomami-7ab40c14375a9f1bb691a809dcc843b4