Dark Truth Behind NASA’s Stunning Amazon “Gold Rivers”
The scale of gold mining – all of it believed to be illegal – in Peru’s Amazon rainforest has been discovered by spectacular rare images released by Nasa.
In fact, the “rivers of gold” caught in the photos are pits assumed to have been mined by unlicensed miners, according to the space agency.
The pits were lit by reflecting sunlight, usually obscured from view.
The rare images were taken in December by an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS).
The images are further evidence of the scale of destructive gold mining in south-eastern Peru’s Madre de Dios area.
The nation is a leading exporter of gold, and with thousands of miners struggling to make a living, Madre de Dios is home to an immense uncontrolled industry.
As an ecosystem, one of the most biodiverse locations on earth in the Amazon. The rainforest is home to over 3 million species, and over 2,500 tree species (or one-third of all tropical plants on earth) help build and maintain this vibrant ecosystem.
The region is a hotspot for biodiversity; however, significant degradation and loss of vital vegetation has resulted from the extractive industry.
When tons of mercury are used to harvest the prized element, extraction is often poisoning local populations, and scientists believe a large quantity is leaked into rivers or the atmosphere.
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Gold employees at Amazon fight to survive in their mines.
Nasa states that the pits where miners are digging for gold appear as hundreds of water-filled basins, surrounded by mud where vegetation has been destroyed.
Miners trace the tracks of ancient rivers where sediments have been deposited, like fossils.
Scientists say mining is the leading cause of deforestation in parts of the country, which is home to wildlife such as monkeys, jaguars, and butterflies.
Battle Against Illegal Gold Mines
In January 2019, a report showed that, according to the Andean Amazon Project’s Monitoring group (MAAP), gold mining deforestation killed an estimated 22,930 acres of Peru’s Amazon in 2018.
Buoyed by the rising price of gold, often poor people from local areas see a chance to profit from mining. In 2012, the lush area had an estimated 30,000 small-scale miners employed in it.
In another area of Peru, La Pampa, where about 5,000 miners were removed, a major gold rush that lasted nearly a decade was eventually prevented by the government in 2019.
Impact of Gold Mining
Most people do not know where the gold comes from or how it is extracted. One of the most damaging industries in the world is gold mining. It could displace populations, contaminate drinking water, endanger employees, and ruin ecosystems. It pollutes water and soil with lethal amounts of mercury and cyanide, endangering the health of people and wildlife. 20 tons of waste is produced by processing gold for one wedding ring alone.
- Poisoned Waters
- Solid Waste
- Threatened Natural Areas
- Economic Impacts
- Endangered Communities
- Free Prior and Informed Consent
- Human Rights Abuses
- Toll on Indigenous Peoples
- Woman Specific Impacts
- Worker Rights and Safety