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September 14, 2017
Informal mining in Brazil is seen by many as a scourge polluting the Amazon rainforest, poisoning indigenous...
The Wider Image: Brazilians toil for gold in illegal Amazon mines
Informal mining in Brazil is seen by many as a scourge polluting the Amazon rainforest, poisoning indigenous tribes and robbing the nation of its wealth. For others it is a way of life. Brazilian garimpos, or wildcat mines, are operated by small crews of men, often caked in red-brown mud and working with rudimentary pans, shovels and sluice boxes that have been used for centuries. More sophisticated operations use water cannons and boats sucking mud from the bottoms of rivers. Regardless of the method, searching for gold and other minerals like cassiterite and niobium is dirty, dangerous and often illegal. "Looking for gold is like playing in a casino," said a 48-year-old miner. Miners asked not to be named, saying they feared the police as much of their work is illegal. Garimpos are in the spotlight as Brazil debates opening an area known as Renca in the northern Amazon forest to mining, which has met with stiff resistance from environmentalists. Mines and Energy Minister Fernando Coelho Filho argues that licensed mining will be an improvement over the estimated 1,000 people currently mining in the reserve illegally. Crepurizao lies hundreds of miles south of Renca, but gives a window into life in the garimpos caught up in the debate. Living in makeshift homes of wood and plastic, miners in the area ship some 60 kilograms of gold per month, according to traders. That much pure gold is worth millions of dollars on the global market, but high costs and layers of traders in the local market leave most miners living on the brink of poverty. REUTERS/Nacho Doce SEARCH "WILDCAT MINING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY. Matching text: BRAZIL-ENVIRONMENT/MINING
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