Rising Gold Prices Mean Deforestation in Peruvian Amazon Up 600%

peru gold mining photo

Mining for gold on Rio Madre de Dios, photo: ActiveSteve/Creative Commons.

One side effect of gold prices continuing to rise (now at a new record of $1500/ounce): Deforestation in parts of the Peruvian Amazon have increased up to 600% since 2003. That's according to a new study in PLoS ONE, which shows how unregulated mining in Peru, done by small-scale miners just trying to support their families has caused approximately 15,200 acres of previously pristine forest to be cleared between 2003-2009, with a marked uptick since 2006.

peru mining deforestation map
The pink boxes represent the main mining areas. Image: Science Daily.

Though such small-scale mining has taken place in the region for generations recent gold price rises has clearly increased the pace of gold mining and environmental degradation.

Report co-author Jennifer Swenson says that the mining is "now plainly visible from space" and that deforestation caused by mining has "largely outpaced nearby deforestation caused by human settlement" since 2006.

gold prices versus deforestation chart

image: PLoS ONE

Beyond the deforestation, mercury is used to process the ore, which contaminates the water and soil as well as puts the health of miners and their families into jeopardy.

Swenson notes, "Virtually all mercury imported into Peru is used for artisanal gold mining and imports have risen exponentially since 2003, mirroring the rise in gold prices."

Read the original study: Gold Mining in the Peruvian Amazon: Global Prices, Deforestation and Mercury Imports
More on Deforestation
Deforestation & Hurricanes May Have Triggered Catastrophic 2010 Earthquake
Amazon Deforestation Up 1000% From Last Year

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