9:11 AM PDT, September 11, 2021
Illegal mining is booming in the Amazon. And that’s bad news for one of the earth’s most important natural spaces.
The Amazon is home to an incalculable array of plants and animals. Several indigenous communities also make their home in the world’s largest rainforest, which spans several countries in South America.
The Amazon also absorbs billions of tons of carbon dioxide, making it a crucial hedge against human-caused climate change.
But human activity is threatening the existence of the rainforest.
Wildcat mines are wreaking havoc in the Amazon. Prospectors searching for gold use methods that devastate flora and fauna there.
Harmful chemicals used in the extraction process enter the rivers and the food chain. And deforestation of virgin areas cannot be undone.
According to a 2020 report from the Amazon Geo-Referenced Socio-Environmental Information Network, there are nearly 5,000 illegal mining sites in the Amazon.
Mining, and deforestation caused by farmers and developers, also contribute to wildfires in the Amazon. Over 28,000 wildfires were observed in August.
The environmental emergency comes at a time of political unrest in Brazil, which claims the largest share of the Amazon. The country’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, has rallied supporters in the streets as he faces declining support.
Bolsonaro has also been accused of sowing doubt about the country’s voting process, some say, in an attempt to influence the outcome of next year’s presidential election.
Bolsonaro has supported mining and development in the Amazon, including opening indigenous lands to commercial mining.
That’s development that the Amazon, sometimes called “the lungs of the planet,” can’t afford to spare.