Gold Mining and Mercury Contamination

Gold Mining and Mercury Contamination - The Master Thief:...

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The Master Thief: Gold Mining and Mercury Contamination in the Amazon* Greed for gold was a pivotal concern in the exploration and colonization of the New World by Europeans, and in the process entire peoples, societies, and environments were degraded and destroyed. This holocaust continues today in the Amazon. Since 1980 the largest gold rush ever developed in the Brazilian Amazon with production at about 100 tons/year exceeding US$2 billion/year, some 4.5 million people involved directly or indirectly, and about 2,000 mining sites scattered over 250,000 km2 Gold mining causes localized deforestation, game depletion and displacement, biodiversity erosion, mercury and other pollution, river and stream bank destruction and siltation, and degradation and decline of fisheries. Enormous amounts of waste result from the mining (nine tons/ounce of gold extracted). Water may be undrinkable for tens of kilometers downstream. One of the most pernicious and longest lasting consequences of gold mining is contamination with mercury which is the most toxic of metals. Miners introduce 90-120 tons/year of mercury into the ecosystems of the Brazilian Amazon. Miners and buyers are likely to suffer direct contamination with metallic mercury, while the many people in river villages and towns who depend on eating fish as their only alternative for cheap quality protein suffer indirect contamination with the much more dangerous form methylmercury. Mercury contamination of
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This note was uploaded on 04/28/2011 for the course ANTH 482 taught by Professor Mills during the Spring '11 term at University of Hawaii, Manoa.

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Gold Mining and Mercury Contamination - The Master Thief:...

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