Gold rush threat to tropical forests

Gold rush threat to tropical forests

Global demand for gold is putting some of the most remote and pristine tropical forests at risk, scientists warn.

Some 1,680 sq km of rainforest in South America was lost to gold mining from 2001 to 2013, a study shows.

University of Puerto Rico researchers say gold mining has become a major threat to ancient rainforests in countries such as Peru and Suriname.

Consumers can help by buying only fair-trade gold, say environmentalists.

The research, published in Environmental Research Letters, studied tropical forests across South America below 1,000m, covering Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

Satellite images show forest clearance for gold mining accelerated after the international financial crisis of 2007.

It was concentrated in four main areas – the Guianan forests; the Southwest Amazon in Peru; the Tapajos-Xingu forest in Brazil; and Magdalena Valley-Uraba in Colombia.

Overall, the amount of forest lost was less than 1% but much of it was located in or near conservation areas.

“Although the loss of forest due to mining is smaller in extent compared to deforestation caused by other land uses, such as agriculture or grazing areas, deforestation due to mining is occurring in some of the most biologically diverse regions in the tropics,” said lead researcher Nora Álvarez-Berríos.




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