Gold, copper, diamonds, and other precious metals and gemstones are important resources that are found in rainforests around the world. Extracting these natural resources is frequently a destructive activity that damages the rainforest ecosystem and causes problems for people living nearby and downstream from mining operations, especially from toxic runoff into river systems. There have been cases of mining companies--sometimes working with local police or authorities--forcibly displacing forest people from their lands in order to exploit mineral riches. Examples are gold mining in the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon, rare earth mining in the Congo, and gold and copper mining in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Some of the world’s most promising oil and gas deposits lie deep in tropical rainforests. Oil and gas development often takes a heavy toll on the environment and local people, especially in rainforest areas where it can cause displacement of local people, air and water pollution, deforestation, and construction of roads that open previously inaccessible areas to deforestation. Interest in energy extraction in recent years has spurred exploration of rainforests for oil and gas. The western Amazon--including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil--has seen a lot of exploration activity. More than 70 percent of the Peruvian Amazon--including indigenous territories and conservation areas--is now under concession for oil and gas.
Dams are also a big threat to rainforests, particularly in the Amazon, the Mekong (Laos and Burma or Myanmar), and Malaysia. Dams disrupt river systems, flood rainforest, displace forest people, and support activities that cause more deforestation. In Sarawak, which is part of Malaysian Borneo, more than a dozen dams are being planned. These will force thousands of forest-dependent people to move and will inundate important rainforest areas. The power generated by the dams will be used for large-scale mining activities, causing further destruction. Similarly, in Brazil, Belo Monte dam disrupted the Xingu river, a tributary of the Amazon, flooding more than 100,000 acres of rainforest and displacing more than 15,000 people. Electricity from the project is powering mining and industrial agriculture that has increased rainforest destruction. Indigenous people, scientists, and environmentalists strongly opposed the project.
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- How does mining affect the rainforest?
- What are some consequences of gold mining in the rainforest?
- How do dams affect rainforests?
- Deforestation From our main rainforests web site
- Pulp and paper From our main rainforests web site
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