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Gold and deforestation

Ban gold imports from Brazil to tackle destruction of Amazon, says WWF
Aerial view of gold mining area in Amazon rainforest region, Para state, Brazil

WWF is calling on the UK government to ban the import of gold from Brazil until it can be proven that it’s not sourced from illegal and deforesting gold production, amid concerns illegally extracted gold could be flooding UK supply chains. 

This follows WWF’s release of shocking new aerial images in areas of the Brazilian Amazon, which show the extensive presence of illegal mines that fuel deforestation and pollution.

Demand for gold

Gold is the UK’s most valuable import from Brazil, accounting for 25% of the total value of goods exported from the country to the UK.

As global demand has soared over the past two years, so has the price of gold, incentivising illegal miners to increase production.  

WWF is also witnessing a huge increase of ‘Garimpo’ – small-scale illegal gold mining – in Indigenous lands and protected areas, which is leading to deforestation and water contamination while fuelling land grabs and violence across the region.

‘Illegal gold mining in the Brazilian Amazon is wreaking havoc on people and nature, fuelling record deforestation, polluting rivers and harming wildlife, as well as having a deeply damaging impact on the lives and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples and local communities.  

‘What happens in the Amazon doesn’t stay there. People and nature across the world are already feeling the effects of the climate crisis and as the UK swelters under unprecedented temperatures this week it is a stark reminder of the future we all face if we fail to address the destruction of precious landscapes like the Amazon. 

‘If the UK government is serious about tackling deforestation, and delivering the promises made at COP26, then it must act now and ban the import of Brazilian gold until it can be proven that it’s not sourced from illegal and deforesting gold production.’

Executive director of conservation at WWF

Mercury contamination

Illegal mining in Brazil is causing local communities to lose their land and livelihoods, without deriving any benefits from the extraction of this precious commodity.

In the decade from 2010-2020, the area occupied by mining inside Indigenous lands in Brazil grew 495%; in the case of conservation areas the growth was 301%. 

One of the most sinister impacts of illegal mining can be seen in the mercury levels contaminating the surrounding habitats and communities.

Mercury is extensively used to separate and extract illegal gold, which ends up in rivers, poisoning wildlife like fish, and the Indigenous peoples and local communities who rely on them as a key source of protein.

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