All that glitters is not gold, the saying goes, as proven by a new photo taken from the International Space Station (ISS).
What appear to be rivers of gold running through the Amazon rainforest in Madre de Dios state in eastern Peru are in fact prospecting pits, likely left by independent miners, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory, which published the photo taken by one of its astronauts.
The pits are normally hidden from view to those on the ISS, but stand out in this shot due to reflected sunlight. The image shows the Inambari River and a number of pits surrounded by deforested areas of muddy spoil.
Independent gold mining supports tens of thousands of people in the Madre de Dios region, making it one of the largest unregistered mining industries in the world, according to NASA.
Mining is also the biggest driver of deforestation in the region, and mercury used to extract gold pollutes waterways, the agency added.