Amazon Gold Rush: Gold Mining in Suriname
Suriname’s vast and ancient rainforests remain one of the world’s best-kept natural secrets, but the global demand for an age-old mineral threatens to destroy them.
Record high gold prices over the past decade have triggered a massive gold rush across the country and the Amazon at large, resulting in the destruction of thousands of hectares of rainforests and the contamination of major rivers with highly toxic materials.
Caught in the middle of this environmental devastation are indigenous and Maroon (contemporary descendants of formerly enslaved Africans) communities, whose livelihoods are increasingly tied to partaking in mining activities within their territories, with detrimental consequences for their well-being.
This map journal tells the story of Sranan gowtu (Surinamese gold, in the local tongue).
Gold mining: a timelapse view
Small-scale gold mining, as seen from an airplane.
Gold mining in Suriname is taking place in remote areas, remaining unseen by much of Suriname and the world at large. Fortunately, advancements in mapping tools and satellite imagery allows for much improved monitoring and visualization of the spread of mining activity.
This Google Earth Engine Timelapse shows the expansion of mining activity in Suriname from 1984 through 2012, clearly depicting large expanses of rainforest giving way to muddy pools full of toxic materials. Note the rapid increase in gold mining activity shortly before the turn of the 21st century.
Use the bookmarks below the Timelapse to explore key areas of gold mining expansion. You can also pan or zoom in and out across the Timelapse manually, and adjust the animation speed using the tab below the year. Note: the timespan (1984-2012) is set by the Timelapse engine.
Source: Google Earth Engine and Time Machine Google Earth Engine Annual Timelapse Editor