Amazon bears brunt of gold-prospecting surge, study shows

Amazon River landscape. Stock image.

A new analysis of satellite images shows the extent of mining growth in Brazil, particularly small-scale gold prospecting in the Amazon region.

Between 1985 and 2020, the area of Brazil dedicated to mining grew more than sixfold to about half a million acres, according to a MapBiomas report. Small operations that use manually-intensive methods surged in recent years to occupy a larger area than industrial mining. 

The Amazon has borne the brunt of that growth as supposedly protected areas are exploited to feed global demand for beef, soybeans, leather and minerals. Brazil’s government is actively engaged in a campaign to open up the Amazon to development. 

The biome accounts for 72.5% of Brazil’s total mining area and 93.7% of small-scale and informal mining, known in Brazil as garimpo. Half of garimpo mining is in conservation or indigenous lands, the study shows. 

Illegal prospecting has been increasing lately and now accounts for half of artisanal activity, federal prosecutor Gustavo Kenner Alcantara told a conference on Monday.

(By Mariana Durao)

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