Environmental Economics

Download Anatomy of the Amazon Gold Rush by David Cleary PDF

By David Cleary

For many the word "gold rush" evokes photographs of the 1849ers panning for gold within the western usa. yet in 1979, the most important gold rush of this century begun within the Brazilian Amazon and has persevered unabated ever since.

Despite makes an attempt by way of governments and mining businesses to regulate it, the Amazon gold rush has flourished, related to millions of miners in an informal-sector which produces over one billion money' worthy of gold each year. in addition, the mining job has develop into famous—or infamous—well past Brazil, due to the furor it has raised within the environmental community.

This very important anthropological learn takes the 1st large and balanced examine the gold rush to give an explanation for its heritage, the social association of the gold camps, the politics and the economics of gold in Brazil, and the results of the gold rush for Amazonia and its people.

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This is built up by means of por;os or pranchetas laid out on a grid pattern. A pol(o is simply a hole scooped out of the topsoil with a bateia, about a foot in depth. The contents are examined in a bateia and poi(OS dug at intervals of a metre or so in a straight line for as far as is thought necessary. The prancheta is a little more methodical; it is a shallow trench, again about a foot in depth, dug out in a straight line, which is sunk in an area where the level of gold found in the initial sampling was exceptionally high.

Once this has been done, excess mercury that has not amalgamated with gold is carefully run off into a cui a. What remains in the centre of the bateia is the gold that the day has yielded mixed with An Introduction to the Amazon Gold Rush 21 an equal mass of mercury (see Plate 11). This amalgam is then tipped into a piece of finely woven cloth, which is often merely the T -shirt the garimpeiro is wearing, and twisted around hard to expel any further excess mercury, which escapes through the weave of the cloth.

The main element of the machinery is a large motor pump that can be thought of as a huge vacuum cleaner. From one end of it a wide diameter hose made of flexible plastic is led. On the end of the hose is a metal screen to prevent small stones clogging the pump. A diver, the mergulhador, in full diving gear, takes the hose down to the river bed and uses it to suck up alluvium, which is pumped up to the raft. One person is permanently stationed on the raft next to oxygen cylinders to ensure the diver receives a constant supply and to monitor the cabo de socorro, a cable which the diver takes down with him and through which he communicates to colleagues by means of a system of pulls, requesting more or less oxygen, more or less power on the hose, or asking for assistance.

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