Land-use intensity of official mineral extraction in the Amazon region: Linking economic and spatial data


The Amazon region has suffered considerable deforestation rates related to logging, cattle ranching, and agriculture. Recently, attention has been given to deforestation due to mining activities. This paper aims to estimate the land area affected by mining activities in protected and nonprotected areas, the value of the traded mineral extraction per commodity, and the mineral commodity with the highest trade (mineral extraction per mining area). Our results show that mining activities occupied 1,110 km2 of the Amazon, where 65% and 35% of this was due to artisanal and industrial-scale mining, respectively. Gold exploitation was responsible for 58% of the total, followed by aluminum (15%), tin (13%), and iron (8%). In the region, 47% of the total mining area was located inside protected areas, where extraction was dominated by artisanal gold mining. The Amazonian states generated US$ 12.6 billion in 2017. Analysis of the values of the traded production showed that iron was responsible for 63.6%, followed by copper (16.2%), aluminum (7.6%), and gold (6.5%). The value of the traded production of gold was relatively low (US$ 810 million) in comparison to iron (US$ 8.01 billion) and copper (US$ 2.04 billion), which occupied the smallest areas. The value of the traded production per area showed that iron ore exploitation generated US$ 91.8 million/km2, while gold generated only 1.3 million/km2. We conclude that the industrial mining of iron ore presented the lowest impacts in mining areas with higher traded mineral extraction, while artisanal gold production ran contrary to environmental conservation goals.

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