Causes and Consequences of a Tropical Forest Gold Rush in the Guiana Shield, South America

  • Hammond D
  • Gond V
  • de Thoisy B
 et al. 
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Abstract

BioOne (www.bioone.org) is a nonprofit, online aggregation of core research in the biological, ecological, and environmental sciences. BioOne provides a sustainable online platform for over 170 journals and books published by nonprofit societies, associations, museums, institutions, and presses. Your use of this PDF, the BioOne Web site, and all posted and associated content indicates your acceptance of BioOne's Terms of Use, available at www.bioone.org/page/terms_of_use. Statistical and spatial analyses of both historical time series and remotely sensed data show a link between the spatial distribution and growth of gold production across the Guiana Shield in northeast Amazonia. Results indicate that an exponential rise in production across an expanding area is primarily a delayed response to the 1971À1978 market flotation of international gold prices. The subsequent 10-fold (2-fold) average nominal (real) price increase has provided a compelling economic incentive to mass exploitation of lower-grade gold de-posits. The ground-based and remotely sensed distribu-tions of mining activity are strongly attached to these deposits that dominate the region's gold geology. The presence of these gold-bearing formations in conserva-tion and sustainable timber zones has sparked social conflict and environmental degradation across the region. Left unmanaged, more than a quarter-million square-kilometer area of tropical forest zoned for protection and sustainable management could ultimately be compro-mised by the price-driven boom in gold mining through poorly integrated resource use planning, lack of recla-mation effort, and control of illegal operations. Serious public health issues propagated through the unregulated mining environment further erode the financial benefits achieved through gold extraction. This study demon-strates in part how international economic policies successfully stabilizing more conspicuous centers of the global economy can have unintended but profound environmental and social impacts on remote commodity frontiers.

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Authors

  • David S Hammond

  • Valéry Gond

  • Benoit de Thoisy

  • Pierre-Michel Forget

  • Bart P E

  • Valé ry Gond

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