Mining takes toll on Amazon

In Brazil, about 90% of Amazon deforestation caused by mining operations happens outside the boundaries of mining leases, disturbing new research reveals.

A study led by Laura Sonter of the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Environment found that previous estimates for forest damage caused by mining were far too low. 

Sonter’s team set out to test estimates that mining accounted for less than 2% of Amazon forest loss, by charting tree cover changes between 2005 and 2015.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications the team reveal that the industry actually accounts for 10% of the damage.

“These results show that mining now ranks as a substantial cause of Amazon forest loss,” says Sonter.

Mining operations in region target primarily bauxite and iron ore.

Much of the industry-related deforestation occurred beyond the boundaries of government-issued mining leases, and was linked by ancillary construction of facilities such as worker housing, processing plants and access roads.

In fact, the team calculated that tree loss outside leases areas was 12-times greater than that which occurred inside – with some of it occurring as far as 70 kilometres distant from lease boundaries.

“Our findings show that Amazon deforestation associated with mining extends remarkable distances from the point of mineral extraction,” says co-author Gillian Galford.

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