Global instability brought on by the Coronavirus and the meltdown of the world economy has sent gold prices soaring to US$1,700 per ounce, their highest value in 10 years. That surge has triggered a new, intensified gold rush in the Brazilian Amazon as entrepreneurs invest in expensive equipment and cheap labor.While some Amazon gold mining is legally permitted, much isn’t. The lucrative, unpoliced industry is causing deforestation, river destruction, mercury contamination (the element used in gold ore processing), and an invasion by hundreds of thousands of miners who could spread COVID-19 to the region.Despite being an illegal activity, large gold mining dredges operate openly in Porto Velho, the capital of Rondônia state. Our Mongabay reporting team followed the daily lives of a dredge-owning entrepreneur and his crew of garimpeiros as they searched for the precious metal in the waters of the Madeira River. PORTO VELHO, Rondônia state, Brazil — We could just barely see the outline of the ghost boats from the bridge over the Madeira River. Their large, black shadows moved against the dark waters, their engines muffled. Now and again, small points of light flickered and reflected, like lanterns on fishing boats. But these adventurers were angling for a different sort of bounty. What we were witnessing were clandestine illegal gold mining dredgers, big motorized barges, now all hurriedly retreating from the center of the river toward shoreside urban anchorages. The reason for the sudden move? We were told later that messages had been received via Whatsapp groups aboard the barges, warning the miners that it would not be a good night to work. Word had circulated fast via social media that a police operation was expected, so the alerted miners were moving their machines shoreside and to safety.