May 10, 2019

The elite soldiers protecting the Amazon rainforest

French Guiana, a small French overseas territory on the north-eastern coast of South America, is one of the most forested nations on the planet, but its precious ecosystem is under threat from illegal gold mining. Beneath the Amazon rainforest lies treasure: gold deposits can be found just 15m below the forest floor. Just over a decade ago, when the economic crash of 2008 caused the price of gold to skyrocket, a gold rush began all over the Amazon jungle. The price of gold has continued to soar and rampant illegal gold mining has destroyed swathes of jungle from Ecuador across Peru, Colombia and Venezuela to Brazil. On the French Guiana-Brazil border, gold mining is mainly carried out by "Garimpeiros", the Portuguese word used to described small-scale miners who extract the metal illegally.

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