The Coordinator of the Environment, Mining and Industry Foundation (MEDMIN), Félix Carrillo, explained to the press recently that the worst environmental impacts are actually not the widespread use of mercury but deforestation caused by gold mining in the Amazon.
Where before miners had only been able to afford panning for gold in rivers, many now bring in heavy machinery and destroy large areas of jungle, altering the course of the rivers in search for gold.
Carrillo said that of the over 600 gold mining cooperatives in Bolivia, 570 use mercury and dump it into nearby rivers and soils. Carrilles said that since mercury is heavier than water, it sinks to the bottom of rivers but it mixes with plants and fish, and thus arrives in humans.
Carrilles said that its possible to substitute other chemicals and processes for mercury, but nobody wants to pay this added expense.
Carrilles said that because gold mining camps are often so far removed from society that virtually no legal control exists over their operations.
He explained that satellite photos can show how quickly gold mining is deforesting not just Bolivia’s Amazonian region but Peru and Brazil as well.
Also explained that most of this gold is never taxed or calculated by the government, but rather leaves Bolivia on the black market.
Source | Bolivia Weekly