As part of the worldwide release of our documentary film, River of Gold, we present the first in a two-part series of studies on the impacts of gold mining.

But first a little about Amazon Aid and River of Gold: our goal is to educate people about the importance of the Amazon – the implications of its destruction and solutions for protecting it. We do that through words, through images, and through relationships with communities and agencies working to protect the Amazon. Because we believe that together we are better.

Narrated by Academy Award winners Sissy Spacek and Herbie Hancock, River of Gold is the disturbing account of a clandestine journey into Peru’s Amazon rainforest to uncover the savage unraveling of pristine jungle by illicit, small-scale gold mining. With the Spring 2021 release of the film comes an accompanying social impact campaign, resource guide, school curriculum, and educational initiatives that we hope will activate governments, NGOs, industry stakeholders, scientists, artists, and the general public to take specific actions to address the consequences of unregulated gold mining.

This report broadens the scope of River of Gold. It synthesizes hundreds of papers, media articles and more to give an overview of the impacts of gold mining in each of the eight Amazonian countries, including the well-documented impacts of mercury contamination and human rights violations, as well as some lesser-known impacts, such as carbon emissions and outbreaks of malaria among poor miners.

While preparing the below, a new gold rush was afoot in the Amazon and beyond, triggered by the pandemic. As Covid-19 spread and the world struggled to adapt, investors saw gold as one of the few stable commodities in an unstable financial climate, driving its price per ounce to over $2,000 in August 2020, a record high. Economic desperation and lax government enforcement led to increases in deforestation, displacement of indigenous communities, and more mercury pollution of air, water, soil, and food chains. Even as illegal mining and the global price of gold rose, many in the mining sector suffered. The collapse of local supply chains led to decreases in local gold prices and reduced income for most artisanal miners.

We at Amazon Aid care deeply about the myriad and devastating impacts of our actions vis-à-vis gold, and feel responsible to help readers and viewers around the world understand those impacts while seeking cleaner approaches to gold mining.

While we made every effort to paint a comprehensive picture, data gaps still exist and, for example, we devoted little attention to large-scale gold mining, mining legislation, and the legislation governing indigenous territories.

Our hope is that this paper will be useful for a range of audiences, from consumers and industry members interested in the on-the-ground impacts of the gold market, to government and non-government actors wishing to learn about hotspots of gold mining in the Amazon. For it’s our belief that a multi-stakeholder perspective is crucial, as it distributes responsibility to create more sustainable, lasting solutions for the Amazon and its people.

But this is just a beginning. While understanding the realities of gold mining in the Amazon is the first step to raising awareness, understanding how the supply chain shapes these realities is just as important. That’s why this paper is the first in a two-part series, the second of which will provide an in-depth analysis of the gold trade and propose a set of market solutions.

We hope the below report helps you see and better appreciate the magnitude of the problem created by illicit and unregulated gold mining in eight very different Amazonian countries.