From the International Space Station, an astronaut photographed a golden river flowing through the Amazon rainforest in southeastern Peru at Madre de Deus. What we see in the picture are in fact innumerable illegal gold mines that sparkle from reflected sunlight.
In 2019, Peru led the gold mining industry in Latin America, producing 130,000 kilos of precious metal. The Madre de Deus region, rich in natural resources and biodiversity, is home to one of the largest independent gold mining industries in the world. According to NASA, mines are likely explored by miners, independent miners, and are surrounded by desert-like, muddy areas that are being cut down by the extractive industries.
The development of unregulated prospecting threatens ecosystems, destroys habitats for species such as monkeys, jaguars and butterflies, and harms the health of local communities.
Mercury, known as a toxic and dangerous metal for humans and the environment, is used in non-industrial mining and contaminates the atmosphere and the water channels that carry its toxins.
In 2019, at least a fifth of the Peruvian population lived below the poverty line. For tens of thousands of people in communities near the mining industry, the solution is to make a living in the gold mines and put their own health at risk.
The photo of the Expedition 64 astronaut, the current long-term mission to the International Space Station, was taken on December 24, 2020 with a Nikon D5 camera. In addition to the golden “rivers”, we see the Inambari River on the left side of the picture. For the perception of the scale, the section of the visible river is 15 kilometers long.