Río Huaypetue gold mine in Peru

Río Huaypetue gold mine in Peru

Extraction of minerals and energy from the rainforest     Click here for more detailed information about rainforests!

Gold, copper, diamonds, and other precious metals and gemstones are important resources that are found in rainforests around the world. Extracting these natural resources is frequently a destructive activity that damages the rainforest ecosystem and causes problems for people living nearby and downstream from mining operations, especially from toxic runoff into river systems. There have been cases of mining companies--sometimes working with local police or authorities--forcibly displacing forest people from their lands in order to exploit mineral riches. Examples are gold mining in the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon, rare earth mining in the Congo, and gold and copper mining in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Some of the world’s most promising oil and gas deposits lie deep in tropical rainforests. Unfortunately oil and gas development often takes a heavy toll on the environment and local people. Oil and gas development in rainforest areas causes displacement of local people, air and water pollution, deforestation, and construction of roads that open previously inaccessible areas to deforestation. High energy prices in recent years have spurred increased exploration of rainforests for oil and gas. The western Amazon--including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil--has seen a lot of activity. More than 70 percent of the Peruvian Amazon--including indigenous territories and conservation areas--is now under concession for oil and gas.

Dams are also a big threat to rainforests, particularly in the Amazon, the Mekong (Laos and Burma or Myanmar), and Malaysia. Dams disrupt river systems, flood rainforest, displace forest people, and support activities that cause more deforestation. In Sarawak, which is part of Malaysian Borneo, more than a dozen dams are being planned. These will force thousands of forest-dependent people to move and will inundate important rainforest areas. The power generated by the dams will be used for large-scale mining activities, causing further destruction. Similarly, in Brazil, Belo Monte dam will block the Xingu river, a tributary of the Amazon, flooding more than 100,000 acres of rainforest and displacing more than 15,000 people. Electricity from the project will power mining activities and industrial agriculture that will destroy yet more rainforest. Indigenous people, scientists, and environmentalists strongly oppose the project.


By Rhett Butler

Date published: June 24, 2004 | Last updated: March 21, 2014