A study carried out by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Peruvian Amazon has discovered that the formalization of mining operations that operate on a small-scale may do more harm than good to the environment. According to the researchers, formalization may prompt the expansion of these operations, which can lead to more dangerous mining, especially if proper environmental impact assessments aren’t conducted or enforced.
The research, reported in the “Environmental Research Letters” journal, centers on the events that took place between 2001 and 201 at the Tambopata National Reserve.
During that period, the demand for gold increased significantly, which led to a surge in mining and roads being built in the region. Simultaneously, deforestation caused by mining increased by nearly 100,000 acres. Additionally, local agencies supplied provisional titles to miners to carry out their operations safely.
In theory, these miners were required to wait until environmental impact and compliance assessments were conducted. However, since this process took a long time to complete, many of the miners began mining without undergoing and concluding these assessments. In fact, the researchers discovered that during this time frame, no mining operations underwent the complete compliance process, which led them to the conclusion that there was little improvement in environmental outcomes in formalized mining regions.
The researchers utilized satellite imagery analysis to evaluate these environmental outcomes and find out the total area that had undergone deforestation. They then compared this to regions that didn’t have formalized mining regulations. The team came to the conclusion that formalizing mining operations could help reduce environmental damage. However, regulations and enforcement were required to ensure that this was done properly, in order to prevent environmental damage.
In a media statement, study co-author Lisa Naughton noted that the process of straightening out land ownership details and rights was slow and the demand for gold was high, which resulted in huge tracts of land being deforested. Naughton explained that most members of the Tambopata community had been aware of the issues of mining formalization but hadn’t had the chance to study the environmental consequences of formalization.
The researcher and her colleagues are hopeful that their research will be used as an example for keeping track of mining formalization interventions in Tambopata as well as other tropical sites in Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia, which are undergoing deforestation at an alarming rate as a result of mining.
Such research findings make a strong case for allowing established companies such as Excellon Resources Inc. (TSX: EXN) (NYSE American: EXN) (FSE: E4X2) to conduct mining activities since they have strong governance systems that ensure ESG principles are adhered to.
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