Novel research method reveals small-scale gold mining’s impact on Peruvian Amazon – by Mike Gaworecki ( – November 9, 2018)

According to research released yesterday, small-scale gold mining has led to the destruction of more than 170,000 acres of primary rainforest in the Peruvian Amazon over the past five years.

Scientists based in Peru’s Madre de Dios region at Wake Forest University’s Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation (CINCIA) say they’ve developed a new method for detecting artisanal-scale mining that is 20-25 percent more accurate than the tools used in the past.

The researchers combined the CLASlite forest monitoring technology with Global Forest Change datasets on forest loss, both of which use lightwaves to identify changes in the landscape, to arrive at their estimate of rainforest destruction driven by small gold mining operations in Peru, which they say is 30 percent higher than previous estimates.

“The scale of the deforestation is really shocking,” Luis Fernandez, executive director of CINCIA, said in a statement. “In 2013, the first comprehensive look at Peruvian rainforest lost from mining showed 30,000 hectares. Five years later, we have found nearly 100,000 hectares of deforested landscape.”

Artisanal miners don’t exploit large veins of gold, instead collecting gold flakes from throughout the rainforest by stripping the land of trees or scooping up river sediment, then using toxic mercury to extract the precious metal.

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