Illegal gold molded into our wedding rings, dangling around our necks and hidden in our smartphones is polluting the rainforest with toxic chemicals and exploiting workers in Latin America.
Read the Miami Herald investigative series: Dirty gold, clean cash
Gold miners have stripped roughly 415,000 acres of South American tropical forest, an area twice as big as New York City, according to researchers at the University of Puerto Rico — and the rate of deforestation is only getting worse.
In Colombia, teenagers swim in mercury-filled pools of water as they use powerful hoses to suck up gold, an investigation by Massachusetts-based nonprofit Verité found.
Pope Francis brought his moral authority to the crisis on Friday when he visited Peru’s epicenter of illegal gold mining, Madre de Dios.
“I want everyone to hear God’s cry: ‘Where are your sister and brother slaves?’” the pope said of the human trafficking that supplies miners and sex workers for the industry. “There is so much complicity. And it’s a question for everyone.”
Solutions won’t be easy — but they exist.
“There are ways of mining gold without mercury, without massive deforestation, without child slavery,” said Douglas Farah, a national security consultant who has studied illegal gold mining.
Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.