The Devastating Costs of the Amazon Gold Rush

Spurred by rising global demand for the metal, miners are destroying invaluable rainforest in Peru’s Amazon basin

To find flecks of gold, workers devour the rainforest floor with water cannons. "There are a lot of accidents," says one. "The sides of the hole can fall away, can crush you." (Ron Haviv / VII)
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We glance around at the wasteland that was rainforest, its handful of remaining trees, cache pools contaminated with liquid mercury, and bone-tired men risking death every day in the Amazon basin. Eventually, untold tons of mercury will seep into the rivers.

Alipio gazes out at the ruined landscape and its tent city. “If gold is no longer worth getting out of the earth here, the people will depart,” he says, gesturing across the tableau of ruin—mud, poisoned water, vanished trees. “And the world left behind here?” he asks. “What’s left will look like this.”

Donovan Webster lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photographer Ron Haviv is based in New York City.

About Donovan Webster
Donovan Webster

Donovan Webster is a journalist and author. He writes from Charlottesville, Virginia.

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