Gold Mining in Amazon Rainforest Increases by 400%

October 29th, 2013

Researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science have found that the amount of area used for gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon has increased by 400% since 1999.

Plane view of Amazon landscape scarred by open pit gold mining. Photo by Rhett A. Butler / mongabay.com

This amount is much larger than what had been predicted by other scientists and strengthens the need for conservation of the area’s rivers and forests.

  • Madre de Dios (translating to Mother of God) is located in the southeastern corner of Peru.
  • The area has historically been covered with some of the most diverse and pristine rainforest in the world.
  • Maps of the area were made using images from satellites, airplanes and data taken on the ground.
  • High tech materials have allowed the researchers to map thousands of small mines that nobody had previously seen.
  • In 1999, there were around 10 thousand hectares of land used for mining – that’s around 18 thousand football fields. The most recent study found more than 50 thousand hectares of land are currently being used for mining or 93 thousand football fields!
  • Gold mining not only affects the rainforest, which is cut down, but the rivers around the forest.
  • The gold miners use mercury to help separate the gold from the ground. The mercury has harmful effects on the animals living in the rivers, as well as the people in the nearby towns
  • Gold mining is the cause for most of the land damage in this area.
  • The two main reasons that area mined has increased are: gold prices increasing and lack of government involvement.
  • With the price of gold rising, there is more incentive to mine and sell it. Often times these miners are “illegal.”
  • Studies on gold mining’s impact are being shown to the government, so that new policies may be put into place to protect the land.

For more information visit: Gold mining in the Amazon rainforest surges 400%