41 % of Amazon deforestation caused by gold mining between 2001 and 2013 took place in the Guianas | WWF
41 % of Amazon deforestation caused by gold mining between 2001 and 2013 took place in the Guianas

Posted on 15 January 2015

On 14 Jan 2015, the University of Puerto Rico released a research paper showing that the highest percentage of Amazonian forest loss, caused by gold mining, occurs across the Guianas.
 On 14 Jan 2015, the University of Puerto Rico released a research paper showing that the highest percentage of Amazonian forest loss, caused by gold mining, occurs across the Guianas.
 
The study reviewed information on the rainforests of Suriname, French Guiana, Guyana, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Bolivia and demonstrated that between 2001 and 2013, approximately 1680 km2 of tropical forest was lost in South America as a result only of small-scale gold mining.

Almost 90 percent of that forest loss occurred in just four regions:  the forests of the Guianas; the moist forests of Peru; Tapajós-Xingú in Brazil; and the Magdalena Valley-Urabá region of Colombia.

Of those four regions the Guianas had highest percentage losses (-41%) suggesting that impacts in our countries are significant even at the continental scale.  The paper also notes that, worryingly, much mining occurs inside or close to Protected Areas.
 
Small scale gold mining has long been recognised as a source of critical income across the Guianas but, as this study reminds us, the consequences of poorly controlled mining is significant environmental damage and highlights once again the urgency of the situation.
 
WWF has worked on gold mining issues for many years and published results showing the serious impacts on health, forests and freshwater systems.  WWF recognises the steps that have been taken by national authorities but urge them to re-double their efforts to ensure that these negative impacts of gold mining are dealt with.
 
It is also clear that these are regional issues that demand a regional response and three areas deserve immediate attention – early signing and implementation of the international Minamata convention to phase out mercury; enforce the exclusion of all mining in Protected Areas and strengthen discussions with neighbouring countries to address the currently uncontrolled movement of miners, mercury and gold.
 
Coordinated efforts can have significant positive effects on the ground as can be seen by the recently adopted French Guiana – Brazil bilateral agreement to control gold mining activities in the border area which has already contributed to reducing illegal mining by 20% within French Guiana.
For more information from WWF Guianas, please contact:
 
French Guiana             Laurent Kelle, country manager,                  lkelle@wwf.fr
Suriname                    Laurens Gomes, Country manager               lgomes@wwf.sr
Guyana                       Aiesha Williams, Head of Office                   awilliams@wwf.gy
 
Suriname General in Park
© Erlan Sleu