This is a very important study, today I attended a meeting in Lima on a study prepared by DIE, a German consulting group, on the Peru National REDD Readiness process and social inclusion in REDD in Peru. There were nearly 80 experts there dealing with the issue of trying to halt deforestation. Peru has focused pilot project efforts on the areas that store the most carbon, ie. the dense tropical forests of the Amazon. After about 5 hours of discussions, there really was very little mention regarding these important findings from this study. Almost 2000/ha of forest lost per year in one region in Peru due to illegal gold mining, and that is directly tied into the rising rate of gold prices. So much that is wrong in the world is related to consumption patterns in the developed world. Almost all of the discussion today and therefore all the emphasis of the Peruvian national strategy to halt deforestation, focuses on the small-scale agriculturalists and subsistance users of the forests. In reality, they are acting on much greater pressures being placed upon them by international commodities, corporations, and consumer choices in the “developed” northern hemisphere countries. I heard another sad statistic the other day, that a pet in Europe, ie a cat or dog, had a bigger carbon footprint than the average African. We all really need to think about how these things work, the true root causes, because a lot of expertise, time, effort, money, and human rights abuses are taking place without anyone ever stopping to ask if we are looking at the true cause of the problem, and if not, all our effort won’t lead us to tackling the problem at all.
Gold Mining in the Peruvian Amazon: Global Prices, Deforestation, and Mercury Imports by

Jennifer J. Swenson1*, Catherine E. Carter1¤, Jean-Christophe Domec1,2, Cesar I. Delgado3

1 Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America, 2 Ecole Nationale des Ingénieurs des Travaux Agricoles de Bordeaux, Unité Mixte de Recherche Transfert et Cycle des Éléments Minéraux, Gradignan, France, 3 Environmental Affairs Office, CESEL S.A, San Isidro, Lima, Peru

“Many factors such as poverty, ineffective institutions and environmental regulations may prevent developing countries from managing how natural resources are extracted to meet a strong market demand. Extraction for some resources has reached such proportions that evidence is measurable from space. We present recent evidence of the global demand for a single commodity and the ecosystem destruction resulting from commodity extraction, recorded by satellites for one of the most biodiverse areas of the world. We find that since 2003, recent mining deforestation in Madre de Dios, Peru is increasing nonlinearly alongside a constant annual rate of increase in international gold price (~18%/yr). We detect that the new pattern of mining deforestation (1915 ha/year, 2006–2009) is outpacing that of nearby settlement deforestation. We show that gold price is linked with exponential increases in Peruvian national mercury imports over time (R2 = 0.93, p = 0.04, 2003–2009). Given the past rates of increase we predict that mercury imports may more than double for 2011 (~500 t/year). Virtually all of Peru’s mercury imports are used in artisanal gold mining. Much of the mining increase is unregulated/artisanal in nature, lacking environmental impact analysis or miner education. As a result, large quantities of mercury are being released into the atmosphere, sediments and waterways. Other developing countries endowed with gold deposits are likely experiencing similar environmental destruction in response to recent record high gold prices. The increasing availability of satellite imagery ought to evoke further studies linking economic variables with land use and cover changes on the ground.”