In the new photo taken the International Space Station, the “gold rivers” of the Amazon rainforest in Madre de Dios state in eastern Peru are in fact pits believed to be dug unlicensed miners. The photo released earlier this month was taken on December 24. Such pits are normally hidden from the view but came in shot due to reflected sunlight.
Independent gold mining is a life support for many people in Madre de Dios, making Peru one of the leading exporters of gold. The region comprises the largest unregistered mining industries of the world, as per NASA. Excessive extraction of gold has left the land deforested with destruction of vital habitats.
Old river routes are followed miners where minerals and sediments were deposited. “Each pit is surrounded de-vegetated areas of muddy soil,” Justin Wilkinson, a grant specialist at Texas State University, wrote for Earth Observatory. “These deforested tracts follow the courses of ancient rivers that deposited sediments, including gold.”
Amazon forest is paying a huge price for this illegal mining. The local community is also equally affected. In order to separate gold from other minerals, miners mix sediments with boiled mercury. As a result, up to 55 metric tons of mercury mixes in the river and atmosphere every year.