Gold-rush in a forested El Dorado: deforestation leakages and the need for regional cooperation

Tropical forests of the Guiana Shield are the most affected by gold-mining in South America, experiencing an exponential increase in deforestation since the early 2000's.

Using yearly deforestation data encompassing Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and the Brazilian State of Amapá, we demonstrated a strong relationship between deforestation due to gold-mining and gold-prices at the regional scale. In order to assess additional drivers of deforestation due to gold-mining, we focused on the national scale and highlighted the heterogeneity of the response to gold-prices under different political contexts. Deforestation due to gold-mining over the Guiana Shield occurs mainly in Guyana and Suriname. On the contrary, past and current repressive policies in Amapá and French Guiana likely contribute to the decorrelation of deforestation and gold prices. In this work, we finally present a case study focusing on French Guiana and Suriname, two neighbouring countries with very different levels of law enforcement against illegal gold-mining. We developed a modelling framework to estimate potential deforestation leakages from French Guiana to Suriname in the border areas. Based on our assumptions, we estimated a decrease in deforestation due to gold-mining of approx. 4300 hectares in French Guiana and an increase of approx. 12 100 hectares in Suriname in response to the active military repression of illegal gold-mining launched in French Guiana.

Gold-mining in the Guiana Shield provides challenging questions regarding REDD+ implementation. These questions are discussed at the end of this study and are important to policy makers who need to provide sustainable alternative employment to local populations in order to ensure the effectiveness of environmental policies.

Published: 03/03/2017

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