Gold mining explodes in Suriname, puts forests and people at risk

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Record high gold prices over much of the past decade have triggered a massive gold rush across much of the Amazon basin, resulting in the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine rainforest and the contamination of major rivers with toxic heavy metals. A newly released report published by the Amazon Conservation Team titled “Amazon Gold Rush: Gold Mining in Suriname” explores the rapid expansion and impacts of gold mining in Suriname through cartography and digital storytelling.

It finds that from 2000 to 2014, the extent of gold mining in the South American country increased by 893 percent.

While the Amazon rainforests of Brazil and Peru are well-known, Suriname’s vast and ancient rainforests remain one of the world’s best-kept natural secrets, according to the online report. But demand for the age-old elemental metal threatens to destroy them.

“According to our calculations, deforestation caused by gold mining has been growing steadily since the turn of the century and rapidly in the past five years,” GIS and Web Development Coordinator at the Amazon Conservation Team, Rudo Kemper told The average rate of deforestation since 2000 is close to 3,000 hectares per year, but in 2014 an estimated 5,712 hectares of forest cover was lost to gold mining, he said. The REDD+ for the Guiana Shield regional collaborative study on gold mining shows similar trends, reporting a near-doubling (97 percent increase) of deforestation from 2008 to 2014 and attributing a total of 53,668 hectares of deforestation to gold mining in 2014.

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