LIMA, Peru — The ravaging of the Peruvian Amazon by a wave of illegal gold mining is twice as bad as researchers had thought.
That is according to a new study using groundbreaking technology that’s discovered thousands of previously undetected small mines in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, near the Bolivian border, a global biodiversity hotspot.
Thanks to its stunning wildlife, the region is home to various nature and indigenous reserves and dozens of thriving jungle lodges that welcome tourists from around the world.
Yet it’s also experienced widespread devastation since the 2008 global financial crisis saw gold prices rocket. Thousands of miners have flooded into the region, dredging riverbeds and carving up vast tracts of the forest floor in remotes areas beyond the reach of the authorities.
They have also poisoned the water table for miles around by dumping hundreds of tons of mercury, which miners use to extract gold from the soil.