BENI RIVER, Bolivia, June 10 (Reuters) – In Bolivia’s Amazon tensions are rising over a boom in wildcat gold mining that is driving a surge in imports of mercury used to extract the precious metal and is sparking conflict between small-scale prospectors and local indigenous groups.
The landlocked South American nation has seen gold production spike in the last five years, with an important amount of that coming from artisanal miners, officials say. That has risen with the global gold price elevated in recent years.
Officials and indigenous leaders are now worried about how the mining is impacting the local environment and waterways, and encroaching on indigenous lands as has happened in the Amazon in Peru and Brazil, with miners increasingly emboldened.
“We’ve been received with firecrackers and dynamite, they’ve thrown stones at us,” Bolivian Senator Cecilia Requena told Reuters during a trip to a tiny hamlet along the Beni River in the country’s north, a hot spot for illegal gold mining.