Amazon rainforest found to be inundated with illegal mining sites

The extent of illegal artisanal mining across the Amazon rainforest has been revealed in a new map which pinpoints 2,312 sites in 245 areas across six Amazon countries. 

The map was produced by Amazon Socio-Environmental, Geo-referenced Information Project (or RAISG), which is comprised of non-government environmental groups from Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil. 

“It has a big impact seeing it all together,” said RAISG’s adjunct coordinator Alicia Rolla. “This illegal activity causes as many social as environmental problems and we hope there can be coordinated actions from the countries impacted to prohibit it.” 

The publication of the map comes weeks before Brazil’s far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro takes office at the start of 2019. Last year, Bolsonaro revealed he used to practise artisanal gold mining in the 1980s and he has won support from Brazil’s garimpeiros (artisanal miners) with election promises to support their work. 

However, artisanal gold mining in Brazil’s Amazon forests and rivers has been a problem for decades and is usually illegal. The environmental impact of the practises has also been grave, with clearings cut into forests, mining ponds carved into the earth and toxic mercury released into rivers.