New research highlights environmental destruction in Madre de Dios

17 November 2018

New research has just been released showing more extensive destruction by artisan gold mining than had previously been estimated.

It was carried out by Wake Forest Winston-Salem State University's Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation (CINCIA). It shows that small-scale gold mining has destroyed over 170,000 acres of primary rain forest in the Peruvian Amazon in the last five years. This is claimed to be 30% more than previously reported.

CINICIA, based in Madre de Dios, is working with Peru's Ministry of Environment and has shared with them the new method they have developed to identify deforestation.

The issue of identification arises because the after-effects of small-scale mining can look like natural wetlands when viewed from a satellite. The new method uses different kinds of information from light waves to show changes in the landscape. According to CINCIA, their new methods are 20-25% more accurate than those used previously.

Artisanal gold mining has boomed in the Peruvian Amazon since the early 2000s, coinciding with construction of the new highway connecting Peru and Brazil. Where it used to take two weeks in an all-terrain vehicle to travel from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado during the rainy season, it now takes only six hours in an air-conditioned luxury bus.

Other work carried out by CINICIA includes identifying native species that can be used for post-mining reforestation.

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