A recent gold rush in the Madre de Dios region of southern Peru has led to devastating deforestation in the Western Amazonian forests, according to a study released last month.
After the global financial crisis in 2008, an increased demand for gold lead to a massive increase in mining in the area. The majority of the gold mining is illegal but because it is small-scale and done in secret, it has been difficult for the Peruvian government to police.
Greg Asner, a professor at Stanford’s Carnegie Department of Global Ecology, has been developing a software called ClASlite that detects deforestation by analysing satellite and aerial imagery. Asner has been working with the Peruvian government, developing a special version of the software calibrated to detect gold mines. What the software has found is striking.
CLASlite results indicated an increase in gold mining from less than 25,000 acres in 1999 to more than 120,000 acres in September of 2012.
Using imagery from the last 10 years and CLASlite, Asner made this map that shows all of the gold mines in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, coloured by the year in which they were constructed. It’s clear how much the gold mining and deforestation has accelerated since 2008:
This map shows only what’s happened since 2008:
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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