The gold in that jewelry? It may have come from an artisanal mine – a small-scale, low-tech, often illegal mine.
This sort of mining is really problematic.
It hurts biodiversity right in its hotspot.
Not only is Peru home to some of the most biologically diverse areas in the world, it is also home to the greatest number of artisanal miners in the world. Mining-related deforestation in one of Peru’s biodiversity hotspots, the Madre de Dios Department, has risen by 400% in the last decade.
It violates human rights and hurts children.
Artisanal mining encourages human trafficking of children for slave labor and prostitution.
Artisanal gold mining is the largest source of mercury pollution.
It dumps about 2,800,000 pounds of the chemical into the environment each year. This pollution results from the dumping of mercury into waterways, burning it off into the atmosphere, and releasing it from the soil as deforestation causes erosion.
Mercury air pollution is pretty much impossible to control.
Mercury has serious consequences for human, animal and plant health.
It is a neurotoxin, and increases in concentration the higher up the food chain it moves.
Mercury contamination isn’t localized to the source.
In the Carnegie Amazon Mercury Ecosystem Project, it was reported that 78% of adults living in the capital of the Madre de Dios Department, especially women of childbearing age, had mercury concentrations above international reference limits. Humans hundreds of kilometers away from mining operations can accumulate mercury.
Nothing says, “I love you” like 250 tons of eroded earth and toxic waste.
It is estimated that for one gold ring, two hundred and fifty tons earth need to be mined, and twenty tons of toxic waste, soil and rock are used.
Just don’t do it.
Ernesto Raez Luna, a senior advisor to Peru’s Minister of Environment, says, “Nobody should buy one gram of this jungle gold. The mining must be stopped.”
Butler, Rhett A. “Gold Mining in the Amazon Rainforest Surges 400%.” Mongabay. Mongabay, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.
Cannon, John C. “Amazon Gold Rush Destroying Huge Swaths of Rainforest.” Mongabay. Mongabay, 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.
Rainforest Rescue. “Facts About Gold.” Rainforest Rescue. Rainforest Rescue, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
Watsa, Mrinalini E. “The Making of Amazon Gold: Once More Unto the Breach.” Mongabay. Mongabay, 19 Feb. 2014. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.
Watsa, Mrinalini E. “The Quicksilver Demon: Rogue Gold-mining Is the World’s Largest Source of Mercury Pollution.” Mongabay. Mongabay, 20 Nov. 2013. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.
Illegal mining in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest is having a severe impact on the environment. According to Juan José Córdova, leader of the energy sector at KPMG Peru, “it is estimated that 30 to 40 [metric] tons of mercury are dumped into the environment annually and burned off after amalgamation- generally without even using rudimentary technology to protect workers’ health or capture waste or fumes.”
Last Thursday, the United Nations launched a groundbreaking treaty—the Minamata Convention—designed to limit mercury pollution internationally. The treaty was signed by delegates of 140 nations after four years of negotiations, and will regulate the use of mercury in certain products and industrial processes.