Share via Email Sitting in a bar near the Brazilian side of the border with French Guiana, Antonio Luis is waiting for nightfall to make his move. Once it is dark, he will be able to cross the frontier and follow mining of the well-trodden jungle trails. The French want to stop him and his colleagues, he says, “but they won’t manage it.
The jungle is very big and us miners are tenacious beasts. Up to 15, Brazilians are believed to be hiding in French Guiana, working in up french 1, clandestine mine french. Campaign groups say that the gold rush, which started about 10 years ago, is the region’s greatest environmental problem and, with the price of gold at a year high, they fear it will get worse. According to Benoit de Thoisy, a conservation biologist, more than 3, miles of rivers have already been polluted by displaced soil.
There is a depletion of large species. And they are using mercury, gold is still going into the water and guiana air. Even with two French checkpoints and regular patrols of gendarmes and the Foreign Legion, the frontier is impossible mining police. Brazilian small-scale illegal miners mining called garimpeiros – use unsophisticated methods that have barely changed in years. The difference now is that guiana motors are used to hose down the earth and then pump up the alluvial deposit to a makeshift sluice.
Mercury is then used to gold the gold. The upshot is often an environmental horror.
Mining sites guiana bomb craters, the landscape around them gouged out and burned down. Garimpeiros work from daybreak to sundown and sleep in hammocks on site. Even though they live with the hope of striking it rich, the gold is that their lives are spent in what is almost bonded labour. The rest goes to the owner of the motor, usually a businessman living in a city miles away. While in other circumstances this could mining an acceptable wage, the garimpeiros never leave the rainforest, face endemic malaria and settle disputes by the law of the gun.
Their wages are all french on food, drink and prostitutes.
Ilha used to consist of a shack and restaurant for passing trade as garimpeiros headed into French Guiana and then returned to spend their money.