Sao Felix do Xingu (Brazil) (AFP) – Standing over the gaping pit in the middle of his small farm, Brazilian wildcat miner Antonio Silva struggles to explain why he joined the new gold rush sweeping the Amazon.
The 61-year-old grandfather of six had planned to retire from illegal mining, and the environmental destruction that comes along with it. He bought this farm in rural Sao Felix do Xingu, in the southeastern Amazon, and was starting a cattle ranch on a long-deforested patch of jungle where he would not have to cut down more trees.
But then the pandemic hit, gold prices soared, and Silva — a pseudonym, as the man is involved in illicit activity — couldn’t resist the temptation of easy money. He put his retirement plans on hold and spent 50,000 reais ($9,000) of his meager savings to rent an excavator, hire four workers, and dig a hole the size of a large house that now dominates his emerald pastures.
Filled with murky gray-green water, the hole is outfitted with a pump sitting on a ramshackle raft that delivers muddy sediment to a sluice to be panned for gold. To his chagrin, he has found only trace amounts so far.
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