Due to instability in the global market place in recent years, the price of gold has risen to its highest historical levels. From 2000 to 2010, the price increased over 300% and continues to rise. When the price of gold is high, miners who normally wouldn't extract gold in marginal areas are able to do so without economic losses. In the Amazon, this results in rampant artisanal mining at the base of the Andes where millions of years of sedimentary runoff have accumulated small deposits of gold.
The Madre de Dios region of Peru is considered a 'low-governance' area, meaning the government lacks the capability to monitor mining operations. The result is the environmental impact of mining in the region is not regulated. Large landscapes are deforested, existing vegetation and trees are burned, and dangerous quantities of mercury are released into the environment. Recent studies have suggested that the impact of gold mining outpaces the impact from traditional development.
Gold mining is responsible for the destruction of important Amazonian habitat. Andean cloud forests are a hotspot for biodiversity and contain many endemic species. In addition, the release of mercury into the environment allows the methylated form of mercury to enter local food chains. As many local populations depend on freshwater fish for a protein source, this release has become a public health issue.