Friday, June 17, 2011

Peru Day Sixteen -- Gold Mining

Looking back over the past two weeks there are several topics that our group has discussed often but that we have not shared in our blog. One of these concerns our awareness of a bristling tension between ecologists, loggers and gold miners -- all of whom have strong opinions about the natural resources of the Madre de Dios region. This became very clear on our trip up the Rio Madre de Dios toward CICRA when a gold miner mooned us. 

We picked up our boat at Laberinto, a gold mining boom-town, and all along the Rio Madre de Dios one can see the blue tarp and bamboo lean-tos where miners have set up temporary camp while they sift the river silt in hope of finding a way out of poverty.

Since we are guests in Peru we do not presume to enter into the complex political debates that churn around its remarkable rain forests, but it is clear that extensive gold mining is severely polluting the Peru’s rivers with mercury (up to 40,000 tons per year as estimated in 2009, according to the BBC, in turn quoting Peru's environmental ministry).

We did not hear chainsaws from our camp or from our extensive hikes but we have it on good authority that loggers are active not far from CICRA. This was driven home when Thomas and I took a longer-than-usual hike one day and stumbled upon a large tree cut 3/4 the way through but left standing.

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