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Police blow up poisonous gold mines in the Amazon

Dec 08, 2023

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Colombian Aerospace Force and National Police, in collaboration with the Federal Police of Brazil, identified and destroyed 19 gold mining operations. These mines had the capacity to produce 30 pounds of gold per month, approximately valued at $1.2 million.

Throughout the mining process, mercury, a toxic chemical, was released into the river at a rate of nearly 250 pounds per month, according to Colombian National Police.

According to Colombian National Police Director Gen. William René Salamanca Ramírez, illegal gold extraction in the Colombia-Brazil border region may be linked to the organized crime group Family of the North (FDN), the third largest criminal group in Brazil.

As of February 2023, Colombia’s government has destroyed 951 illegal mines.

The spread of mines — with mercury used to extract gold from other minerals — is reportedly harming Bolivians who live along the rivers.

Members of the Ese Ejjas community are reporting health issues attributed to mercury exposure. Indigenous leader Lucio Games noted a rise in cesarean sections and cases of children with disabilities.

A June report by the Indigenous Peoples of La Paz Central Group reveals that 75% of indigenous people in northern Bolivia exceed international mercury standards, with non-miners impacted due to mercury carried downstream affecting fish, a primary food source.

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