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The Search for Riches: Gold Mining in the Rainforest

When you think about the rainforest, you might not think about gold mining. But in fact, gold mining has become big business in the rainforest—and it is not all for the good. In fact, the mining of gold has become one of the greatest threats to the rainforest ecosystem. 

Since 2008, there has been an increase in the need for gold. To meet that need, more gold must be mined. And one of the busiest spots in the world for gold mining is the rainforest. 

The Madre de Dios region in Peru is one of the hardest hit areas. In 1999, less than 25,000 acres were being used for mining;  by 2012, that number had increased to more than 120,000 acres!

Gold Mining Rainforest Peru EdTechLens
What does gold mining do to the rainforest? In order to get to the gold, trees are cut down which destroys animal habitats and can put other plant life in danger. The use of mercury by miners to separate the gold from the ground has also endangered water resources in the rainforest—this not only contaminates the water, but puts the health of animals and people at risk who use the water for drinking or other activities.
Scientists, geologists and other specialists have conducted studies that are being taken to the Peruvian government. It is hoped that new policies will be put in place which will do a better job of protecting these rapidly disappearing resources. 

Something to Think About: Imagine you are a scientist that has been asked to come and speak to the government of Peru about gold mining in their region. What suggestions would you make to help protect rainforest resources?
Want to Learn More? Visit Monga Bay, Smithsonian MagazineAmazon Mining at WWF Global  and their Fact Sheet 

Rainforest Kids Science curriculum connection: Unit 5: Chapter 1, Lesson 1, GK-5

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