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Historia Publication logo Junio 18, 2022

El Veneno Mexicano Que Intoxica El Amazonas


An aerial overview of a deforested area contaminated with mercury in Brazil.

Uncovering the origin and the traffic of the mercury used for gold mining in the Amazon Forest.

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This story excerpt was translated from Spanish. To read the original story in full, visit Proceso. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.

Gold mining in the Amarakaeri communal reserve, Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Alejandro Saldivar. Peru, 2022.

MADRE DE DIOS, Peru (Proceso) - Larri Ihuizi Keontehuari usually carries a gold nugget in his pocket which can sell for 220 soles (60 dollars) per gram. He is a small man with an elusive look and, at 31 years of age, is the president of the Harakmbut community of Puerto Luz, in the southeast of the Peruvian Amazon, where the indigenous communities can extract gold from their territory without requesting authorization from the government. They can even, as Larri does, bring in non-indigenous guests to do so.

To amalgamate gold into a solid pebble whose bright yellow grains stipple the Karene riverbed, miners - authorized and not, coming Madre de Dios every day from all over Peru - make a pile of sediment and pour into it a few drops of mercury. It takes between three and seven grams of quicksilver to produce one kilogram of gold.

Puerto Luz, sheltered by thick vegetation, has 62,000 hectares and 500 inhabitants. It is one of the 10 communities of the Amarakaeri communal reserve in the province of Manu, Madre de Dios region. To get there, the miners must spend at least 100 dollars to take two boats and three cab vans.

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These reports were produced thanks to the GRID-Arendal Investigative Journalism Grant 2022 and support from the Rainforest Journalism Fund of the Pulitzer Center.