This video from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, shows just how much illicit and unregulated gold mining has irrevocably destroyed areas of Peru’s Amazon rainforest.

“To say deforestation isn’t enough to describe what’s happening there. It’s truly devastation. It’s as if you put a piece of desert in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest,” says Guido Lombardi, journalist and former Congressman, whose voice is heard in the video. Even worse, he explains, the ground there has been poisoned by heavy metal contamination so that new vegetation is unable to grow.

Though Lombardi says 30,000 hectares have been destroyed in the past three years, the latest estimates from the Ministry of the Environment put the number even higher, close to 50,000 hectares, as the rate of destruction continues to increase. Because informal mining is unregulated and takes place deep in remote areas of the Amazon, it’s hard to know just how widespread the activity is. This is why these helicopter images, and those seen in our film Amazon Gold, are so vital to conservation efforts.

Illicit mining now represents one of the single greatest threats to the survival of the Amazon, the most biodiverse region on the planet. In the region of Madre de Dios, where most of the damage has taken place, the government’s efforts to shut down illicit mining have met with violent protests from miners and others whose livelihood depends on illicit gold.

Amazon Aid continues to work with a coalition of government bodies and NGOs to seek a resolution to this complicated issue and protect the remaining acres of Amazon rainforest.

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