Malaria cases among Yanomami Indigenous people living in the Brazilian Amazon have risen more than 700% over the past decade as illegal gold mining intensifies in the world's largest rainforest, health researchers say.

Miners leave behind gaping craters in the ground as they clear huge tracts of forest, creating ideal conditions for the spread of malaria, a disease carried by mosquitoes that thrive in standing water, said Paulo Basta, an epidemiologist specializing in Indigenous health.

Gold mining also destroys other plants, scares off wildlife and contaminates the soil and rivers with mercury, which is used to separate gold from other minerals, said Basta, who is also a senior researcher at leading Brazilian biomedical research center Fiocruz.