Gold Mining in the Amazon Basin


The Beginning of Gold Mining in the Amazon


"Gold mining of surface deposits began as early as the 16th century... However, difficulties resulting from the location, climate, and political instability kept the region from full exploration until recently."



Gold is a dense, shiny, and malleable metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive. Gold is a valuable and highly sought-after metal for jewelry, and other products. Gold is also frequently linked to a wide variety of symbolism and ideologies. A total of 165,000 tons of gold has been mined as of 2009. Gold is mined by large companies due to its value. The uncontrollable mining of gold causes tremendous damage to the environment in areas surrounding the mines and has become a serious issue in the Amazon Basin.

Major Problems

Approx. 1976 - 2016

Gold mining in the Amazon Basin is a dangerous activity and damages the local environment. Gold mining causes "severe deforestation, uncontrolled release of mercury, and the deterioration of soil and riverbeds." This along with "disordered occupation of territories, uncontrollable mining organizations, and dangerous working conditions," are major problems with mining in the Amazon Basin.

New Gold Discovery

1976 - 1979

"In the late 1970s, gold was discovered along the Brazilian border of Venezuela." The new discovery sparked a gold rush that is still happening today, which is also considered the largest single gold rush in history.

Global Increase in the Price of Gold

1976 - 1980

Between 1976 and 1980 the price of gold increased from $480.05 per ounce to $2,035.42 per ounce due to the Bull Run Market. This is said to have been the beginning of the gold rush in the Amazon.

The Invasion of Para

1980 - 1989

In the 1980s, over 100,000 prospectors invaded Para due to te discovery of a gold deposit.

Deforestation Increase

2003 - 2009

Between 2003 and 2009 the level of deforestation due to gold mining increased sixfold.

Forests and Wetlands Cleared for Mining Sites

2003 - 2009

Between 2003 and 2009 around 15,200 acres of wetlands and forests were cleared for two gold mining sites.

Mercury Imports Rise


Mercury imports to Peru have risen since 2003. Mercury in Peru is typically used in artisanal gold mining. Mercury causes pollution and environmental destruction.

Conflict and Resolution


The main conflict with gold mining in the Amazon Basin is the destruction of the environment and the illegality of it. Attempts to resolve these conflicts include making the miners and organizations file proper paperwork to work in the area and get permits for their work. The organizations get around this though by saying that they are in the process of getting their work authorized, which typically whoever regulates the work allows them to continue. So they are illegally working and mining. They should be punished for not getting thte paperwork completed before starting work. The other issue of environmental damage could be solved by disallowing any work they may file permits for if they cause massive damage and properly regulating them while they are working. Another issue would be that of mercury, which can be resolved through the regulation and restriction of mercury imports.