There’s a gold rush going on—and it’s affecting tropical ecosystems. The rush is due in part to an increase in wealth in developing countries and their subsequent acquisition of gold. Another factor is the loss of faith in financial markets since the financial crash, which prompts investors to put money into gold. The desire for gold made its price soar from $250 dollars per ounce in 2000 to $1,300 per ounce in 2013.
To determine the impact of increased gold mining prompted by the value jump, researchers evaluated about 1,600 gold-mining sites in forested areas and tracked the changes in forest cover between 2001 and 2013. They found an increase in deforestation of about 1,600 square kilometers. Deforestation picked up between 2007 to 2013—that parallels the financial crisis and the rise in the price of gold. In some areas, deforestation occurred four times as much in those latter six years as in the first six.
The study was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. [Nora L Alvarez-Berríos and T. Mitchell Aide, Global demand for gold is another threat for tropical forests]
In addition to the destruction of the forest itself, mining causes additional problems, such as air, soil and water pollution from arsenic, cyanide and mercury. It also takes longer for forests to recover from mining than from other uses, such as agriculture. Another casualty of the global financial crisis.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]