Ni de Vaina

How illegal gold mining in South America poisons people

The wailing newborn had just gone from purple to pink when researchers from Duke University whisked her out of the delivery ward and started collecting fingernail clippings and saliva swabs.

Investigators are hoping that Sofia, and infants like her, can provide clues about how rampant gold mining in this swath of southeastern Peru is harming people who have never set foot in a mine ? or, in this case, are barely a minute old.

This part of the Peruvian Amazon has been overrun by 30,000 to 50,000 gold miners, many of them illegal, who are flocking to feed global demand for bullion, jewelry and smartphone components. Much of the precious metal produced in places like Puerto Maldonado is exported to the United States, including Miami , where there?s little awareness about its far-reaching health implications.

The miners rely on toxic mercury to isolate and bind small flakes of gold into larger chunks that can be sold.

© Gonzalo Morales Divo
But there?s a dangerous byproduct of the process. According to the Artisanal Gold Council , a Canadian nonprofit that works with local miners and policymakers to reduce toxic emissions, more than 90 tons of mercury every year ends up in the air, rivers and streams of the Madre de Dios region of Peru, often harming communities far removed from the mines.

© Gonzalo Morales Divo


© Gonzalo Morales Divo

Tags: Gonzalo Morales Divo, Gonzalo Morales, Gonzalo Morales Venezuela, Gonzalo Morales Miami