- A new report from Monitoring of the Amazon Project (MAAP) compiles some of the most up-to-date and extensive analysis of mining in the Amazon.
- The map show 58 instances of illegal mining in virtually every Amazonian country (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana), 49 of them illegal.
- The map also shows that there were 36 instances of mining activity overlapping with a protected area or Indigenous territory.
Earlier this month, the leaders of eight countries in South America signed the Belém Declaration, billed as a landmark step towards saving the Amazon Rainforest. But it was criticized for its weak language and lack of concrete strategies, raising questions about whether current policies are on track to meet conservation targets.
When it comes to illegal mining, one of the top drivers of deforestation and pollution in the region, the declaration mentions monitoring fisheries and water quality at sites using mercury — but not much else.
“There’s this text about preventing and combatting illegal mining, including strengthening international cooperation, but there’s no specifics there. A first step to addressing illegal mining is to get a good handle on where it is,” Matt Finer, senior research specialist at Amazon Conservation and the Director of Monitoring of the Amazon Project (MAAP), told Mongabay.
A new report from MAAP compiles some of the most up-to-date and extensive analysis of mining in the Amazon, revealing hot spots and conflict areas that suggest combatting the problem is going to be easier said than done, even with the Belém Declaration.
The map shows 58 cases of illegal mining in virtually every Amazonian country (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname and Guyana), 49 of them illegal. Each case highlighted on the map represents an area where numerous individual operations are taking place. There’s a notable concentration of them in southern Peru and eastern Brazil, the map shows.
“I think it’s one thing to say in a statement, ‘go deal with illegal mining,’ but when you have a guiding map like this, it really lays out just how widespread the issue is,” Finer, the author of the report, said. “It really puts it in perspective.”
The data presented in the report is largely based on information obtained over the last several years of MAAP’s deforestation monitoring work, including daily monitoring of automated forest loss alerts from the University of Maryland’s Global Forest Watch program and high-resolution satellite imagery from Planet.
For the first time, it also used local partners to detect mining activity in rivers. A lot of focus is paid to land-based mining activity because it’s a driver of deforestation, but river mining can be a major polluter, too.
There are high rates of illegal river mining in northern Peru and across the border in Colombia and Brazil, the map reveals. In total, MAAP found at least 20 instances of river mining in the Amazon.
“We have to talk about the destruction of watersheds, not just deforestation,” Emiliano Terán Mantovani, a general coordinator at the Observatory of Political Ecology of Venezuela, told Mongabay. “[Mining] destroys large rivers and its offshoots, which ends up destroying so much life throughout a watershed.”
MAAP also found that, both on land and rivers, there were 36 instances of mining activity overlapping with a protected area or Indigenous territory. They make up some of the highest-conflict areas in the region and are usually marked by human rights violations and high rates of violence.
In Bolivia’s Madidi National Park, foreign-backed mining operations use mercury to dredge gold out of rivers, creating health problems for members of numerous Indigenous communities. And in Venezuela’s Yapacana National Park, criminal groups and the armed forces have moved in to mine with heavy machinery.
Other protected areas identified in MAAP’s report include Ecuador’s Podocarpus National Park and Venezuela’s Canaima National Park. Some impacted Indigenous groups include Brazil’s Kayapó, Menkragnoti, Munduruku and Yanomami, as well as Ecuador’s Shuar Arutam.
“[Mining’s] persistence over time shouldn’t lead us to normalize it,” Terán said. “Its impact is very serious and affects the life of the communities themselves and their persistence for the long term.”
Banner image: Deforestation from mining in Pará, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.
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