Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon

A combination of field surveys, airborne mapping, and high-resolution satellite imaging have determined that small clandestine operations now make up more than half of all gold mining activities in the Western Amazonian forests of Peru.
The Carnegie Institution for Science and Peru’s Ministerio del Ambiente in Lima assessed road- and river-based gold mining in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon from 1999 to 2012. During this period, the geographic extent of gold mining increased 400%. In the year 2008, the average annual rate of forest loss as a result of gold mining tripled.

Madre de Dios now supplies more than 70% of Peru’s gold production; however, mining activities remain mostly unpermitted by the government.

The authors discovered hundreds of new small mines in the foothills in the headwater region of the Colorado, Inambari, and Malinowski Rivers.
Their discovery was confirmed by air in July 2011 and again in September 2013.

“Critically, as of 2012, small mining operations constituted 51% of the total mining activity throughout the region,” the authors observed. “Our results reveal far more forest damage than has been reported in the past, both in terms of the current area affected and the rate of clearing over time,”
While the total land loss in Madre de Dios appears small compared to other tropical regions undergoing deforestation, the study emphasized that “Madre de Dios is world-renowned for its unusually high biological diversity."