According to the report by the US-based Carnegie Institution for Science, 15,810 acres of rainforest in Peru’s Madre de Dios region, home to various nature and indigenous reserves as well as a booming eco-tourism industry, have vanished per year since the start of the 2008 global economic crisis.
The crisis saw international gold prices rocket as investors rushed to put their cash into the ultimate financial safe haven. In response, thousands of Peruvians have flooded into Madre de Dios, near the Bolivian border, in search of gold, dredging river beds and digging vast holes in the forest, largely beyond the reach of the law.
[...] “ The gold rush exceeds the combined effects of all other causes of forest loss in the region , including from logging, ranching and agriculture. “This is really important because we are talking about a global biodiversity hotspot. The region’s incredible flora and fauna is being lost to gold forever.”
[...] Although the Carnegie research detailed only the amount of deforestation directly caused by the mining, the impact on the Amazon, and its people, is thought to be far greater . That is due largely to the tons of mercury used to extract the gold; it now permeates the water table and accumulates in the bodies of fish, which are a staple of jungle populations. Local people, including children, have now been found to have unhealthy levels of the element in their blood.
And the invasion of the rainforest by the miners has had many other devastating repercussions, from underage girls being forced to perform as sex workers to the wiping out of game and fowl through overhunting with rifles.
Ernesto Raez Luna, an adviser to Peru’s Environment Minister and co-author of the report with Dr Asner, added: “We are using this study to warn Peruvians of the terrible impact of illegal mining. It must be stopped.”