Grim reality behind Peruvian Amazon’s ‘rivers of gold’
One of NASA’s astronauts at the International Space Station took a picture of what seemed to be rivers of gold flowing throw eastern Peru
A photograph taken from the International Space Station (ISS) shows what appears to be rivers of gold running through the Amazon rainforest in the Madre de Dios state in Peru, but the reality is not that glossy.
The picture shows gold prospecting pits in the Inambari river in the Peruvian Amazon, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory, that published this photo. While the pits have small amounts of gold, it is mostly polluted water and mud left there by independent miners in the region. These are usually hidden from view from the ISS but they became visible in the shot due to reflected sunlight.
The livelihood of thousands of people in Madre de Dios depends on mining, making it one of the largest unregistered mining industries across the globe. Close to 30,000 small-scale miners prospect gold illegally in the area.
Experts say that illegal gold mining has destroyed the ecology of the area, an issue which the local authorities ignore in exchange for handsome bribes.
Gold mining in the area, a lot of which is in a protected park, is growing by 242 hectares per year according to an NGO. Mining also leads to deforestation in the area and the mercury being used for gold mining pollutes the waters.
Experts deem the damage being done in the area by pollution as ‘irreversible’.
Deforestation due to gold mining destroyed an estimated 22,930 acres of Peru’s Amazon in 2018, according to a 2019 study by the group Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP).