Brazil Prosecutors Seek Ban on Gold Mining in Vulnerable Amazon Rainforest
Gold mining in the Amazon rainforest has always been a huge environmental issue. Earlier this year, NASA captured a photo of gold mining which appeared as if rivers of gold were running through the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. Given the vulnerable state of this biodiversity-rich rainforest, Brazil prosecutors now seek a ban on gold mining in the Amazon Rainforest.
The lack of authoritative control and traceability has led to an increase in illegal mining activities. The Federal Public Ministry has filed a lawsuit demanding that government should supervise all mining projects or else gold mining activities should be suspended in the Brazilian Amazon, southwest of Pará state.
The lawsuit has been filed after a study, by researchers from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), revealed that the municipalities of southwest Pará are responsible for 85 percent of cases of gold laundering in Brazil in the past two years.
The study also concluded that almost 30 percent of the 174 metric tons of gold sold in Brazil in the past couple of years was linked to some irregularities, amounting to $1.8 billion of potentially illegal gold.
According to experts, Brazilian law allows miners to self-declare their gold mining area without any verification, while the entire process remains manual and with no electronic invoices to control or trace the gold trade in the country.
Larissa Rodrigues, manager of projects and products at the Escolhas Institute, a nonprofit working toward stricter requirements for the gold supply chain in Brazil, said,
The Brazilian mining sector is like in the Old West. The law states that the garimpeiros (illegal miners) need to fill out a paper form saying where the gold comes from. But it is self-declaratory, he doesn’t need to present any document proving it. No one will verify if the gold actually came from that mining operation where he said it came from.
The lawsuit requested a total suspension of the extraction, trading and exportation of gold in the southwest region of Pará state. The move comes as the federal government fails to take stringent action against the invasions and violence encouraged by “gangs of illegal miners” that are jeopardizing tribal communities of the Amazon.
The illegal extraction of precious metal from the indigenous lands has threatened the lifestyle of many tribes living in the region. Mercury, which is used by illegal miners to extract the gold from the ore, pollutes the water resources that these people depend on.
Moreover, the excessive rate of metal extraction from the rainforest also offsets its carbon balance, further contributing to climate change, which has already wreaked havoc in the Amazon Rainforest.