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Story Publication logo October 16, 2022

The People Displaced by Mercury, a Poison in the Bowels of Amazonia (Spanish)

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

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 France 24. 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.



In Roraima, Brazil, up to 9 out of 10 inhabitants of the local indigenous villages have consumed water contaminated by mercury, used by illegal gold mining. Image by Alejandro Saldivar/France 24. Brazil, 2022.

Text by: Sofía Caruncho Llaguno | Daniel Wizenberg | Nicolás Cabrera

In the State of Roraima, Brazil, there are hundreds of people seeking asylum: They are displaced by gold and mercury. They come from Brazil itself, Venezuela, and Guyana. This investigation follows the mining route that is devastating forests and communities in the northeastern Amazon and its links to China.

In Guyana's Amazon rivers, Carlos, a 40-year-old Venezuelan, earns 5,000 reais a month (about $1,000) mining gold illegally. He says that in the last four days of work, he and four other miners collected 143 grams of gold for "the boss". He does not say who his boss is but says that this man, without going to the mine, sold those 143 grams for more than $11,000. To amalgamate the grains of gold dispersed in small pebbles, and thus transport the gold, the miners need mercury, which, because of its toxicity, is banned almost everywhere in the world. Carlos gets it for $5 per gram.

Carlos says that there is a lot to see in the jungle. On his cell phone he has images of mercury, gold stones, a white leopard he has just hunted, giant trucks going uphill, a CAT 320 hydraulic backhoe, German MAN trucks, and boats loading drums with fuel. He says that every seven months, the time it takes him to raise about $4,000, he goes to spend a month with his family, who are waiting for him in Boa Vista.


In Boa Vista, Roraima, Brazil, there is a statue made of wood, aluminum, and cement that reads "Monumento ao Garimpeiro" (Monument to the Miner). Image by Pablo Linietsky/France 24. Brazil, 2022.

'Operation Acolhida' coordinated by the Brazilian military and UNHCR, gives shelter to tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants and refugees who have arrived in Brazil in recent years. Image by Pablo Linietsky/France 24. Brazil, 2022.

A study conducted in all the rivers of Roraima, Brazil, found that it is unlikely to eat mercury-free fish throughout that state. Image by Pablo Linietsky/France 24. Brazil, 2022.
Video by France 24.

To amalgamate the gold grains dispersed in small pebbles, and thus transport the gold, the miners need mercury, which, because of its toxicity, is banned almost everywhere in the world. Image by LATE.

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