Scientists from Duke University have developed a model that can predict the amount of mercury being released into a local ecosystem by deforestation and small-scale gold mining.
The research, which appears online on December 11 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, could point toward ways to mitigate the worst effects of mercury poisoning in regions such as those that are already experiencing elevated mercury levels caused by gold mining.
“We’ve taken a lot of ground measurements in the Peruvian Amazon of mercury levels in the water, soil and fish,” said Heileen Hsu-Kim, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke University. “But many areas in the Amazon aren’t easily accessible, and the government often does not have the resources needed to test local sites.”
“When you clear the land for mining, it leaves behind a landscape that basically went from lush greenery to barren desert,” said Hsu-Kim. “You can easily see the effects in satellite images. If (governments) could use publicly available satellite imagery to identify areas that are likely to be contaminated, it could help them make informed policy decisions to protect public health.”
The past two decades have seen a sharp increase in illegal and informal gold mining in Peru’s southern Amazon region of Madre de Dios. These small-scale operations typically involve cutting down all of the trees in a particular area, digging a large pit and then using mercury to extract gold from the excavated soil.
For the rest of this article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191212122546.htm