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Le Rouge et le Blanc

L'Amazonie péruvienne contaminée par le mercure des mines d'or (David Hill/Andes to Amazon/The Guardian)

22 Novembre 2016 , Rédigé par POC

Ask about the fish in restaurants in the centre of Puerto Maldonado, the biggest town in Peru’s south-east Amazon, and you’ll hear all kinds of things. Some people will shake their heads and say there isn’t any fish on the menu “because of the contamination” or “out of protocol”. Others might say there is fish available, before sometimes hastily clarifying that it comes from farms along the Inter-Oceanica Highway running to Brazil, or from the Pacific coast, or even, according to one chef, all the way from Vietnam.

Why such problems with the fish in this part of the Amazon? Answer: alluvial gold and the mercury required to extract it. The gold-rush in the 8.5m hectare Madre de Dios region began in the 1980s and, by 2012, miners had destroyed more than 50,000 hectares of forest, effectively dumping 100s of tons of mercury into the rivers while doing so. In May this year Peru’s outgoing government announced a pathetic 60-day “declaration of emergency”.


Peru is one of the world’s biggest gold producers, with the main importers being Canada, India, Switzerland, the UK and the US. A report published in April by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime argued that 28% of all gold in Peru is illegal, with illegal gold-mining across Latin America increasingly controlled by drugs traffickers and “organized crime” groups.

In January Peru ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a legally-binding global treaty which commits parties to regulate artisanal and small-scale mining, among other things, and states that “parties may cooperate with each other” to stop altogether the use of mercury or mercury compounds in such mining. Switzerland and the US have ratified the Convention too, but Canada, India and the UK haven’t.

Peru’s Health Ministry did not respond to questions.

David Hill

Lisez ici l'article complet de David Hill, le jeune, brillant et courageux correspondant du Guardian, auteur de la chronique "Andes to Amazon": https://www.theguardian.com/environment/andes-to-the-amazon/2016/nov/19/leaked-map-reveals-chronic-mercury-epidemic-in-perus-amazon

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