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tv   Gold At Any Cost  Al Jazeera  April 2, 2018 6:33am-7:01am +03

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as it mostly burned up on reentry over the south pacific those are the headlines techno is up next on al-jazeera in twenty sixteen when he's revealed big girls from me and some as young as fifteen were trafficked to singapore to work as means it's illegal and costing lives so why does it still continue in law abiding singapore want to win east on al-jazeera. al-jazeera. where every. story is of life. and spurring.
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a series of short documentaries from around the world that celebrate the human spirit against the oh it's. all over. the world to. al-jazeera selects express yourself. this is techno innovations that can change lives the science of fighting the fire we're going to explore the intersection of hardware in humanity and we're doing it . this is a show about science. by scientists. techno investigates gold at any cost. if we travel deep into the rain force of these illegal mining operations except for miles and miles away from the main highway to uncover
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a gold rush that's turning last jungle into utter devastation high pressure water hoses and blasted out and it's not just the lamed people are stepping into i'm phil torres. i've conducted extensive research in this rain forest so this story is personal really pains me to see this breed today vicinities a biologist specializing in ecology and evolution now she shows us the high tech tools that are exposing what even the i can't see so where it's blood red that's where the mercury pollution is most intense we will share our findings with lindsay she's an ex cia analyst that's our team everything we've been saying it's for this no it's do some science. hey guys welcome to techno i'm joined by lindsay moran and marie to david sent this
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upcoming episode is an important one to me takes place in true have done a lot of my research and it is a tale of contrasts we will see rain forest full of new species and then we will see the devastation that humans have done to extract gold and as we know with devastating stories like this where there's a lot of damage science. players are all here not just in monitoring and discovering what's going on but in trying to help process i think this is the story having looked at some of the images that one image of the devastation pretty much says it all absolutely this is an important story it's one that's very near and dear to my heart and it starts in the proving rain forest. amazon rain forest for more than fifty million years it's been a cradle of life. this is what
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pristine rain forest looks like. lush. untamed. bursting with wildlife but maybe not for long because the soil underneath is laced with gold and the human desire for it can turn all of this. into a toxic waste land like this. this is love pomponne in the buffer zone of the pot to national reserve it's part of more than one hundred thousand acres of rainforest and truth that have been decimated by an illegal gold rush. to investigate techno traveled deep into prove to a region called bonded videos the mother of god it's one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet and the source of seventy percent of the illicit gold produced each
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year in peru brought a flight into the area for the gold mines strong look out the window actually all ready. to. be revived the birth of. the region's capital in a gold mine. is one. an estimated thirty thousand illegal miners word in modern day that the u.s. chances are you might find some of them here to so much gold were by equipment i stopped into one of the shops to look around at a place called amazon gold and right we walk in and there's a sign this is going to be a bike go and as i exchanged my money there was a little scale right in front of me still had some gold dust on it from past exchanges but this sign was removed as soon as our camera was spotted. for tomorrow mom who is also placed in transition while many of its roads are still
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dirt paths the new intrusion of highway his opened up the area to the wider world people come from all over the country to work the goal feel secure in. the east ferdinand this directs the carnegie amazon murray creek ecosystem project he's been studying gold money toxic legacy in the amazon since two thousand. so now miners have better access to the remote force they can get their equipment there everything's easier because of that highway everything's easier it's essentially part of the perfect storm that is mother. so not only do you have a brand new highway that makes transport easier you have record high gold prices and the preexisting condition of extreme poverty. tell me about this illegal gold mining what is a process where really on the edge between the amazon in the andes and erosion over millions of years has worn down the rocks of the andes which are gold rich and all
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that sediment has washed down the river. next stop a mining area near look pumpa but that can be dangerous for an outsider. the only way into this spot is on the back of a motorbike. the going is tough. and what. make shift bridges don't always hold up. as we get closer to trees give way to something hard to grasp. impossible to put into words. so where we are now should be brain for the rain but the forest is missing having
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done so much work in the areas that have forced it really pains me to see it as the only way to get a handle on the devastation is to understand how illegal miners get to the gold. they start by clearing the trees so the process is one that's very very primitive. you use high pressure water hoses and blasted out. the water dissolves the soil removing anything in it that's organic you concentrate it using sluices which kind of looks like a slide where you run a slurry of the sediments over carpets which captures the tiny flecks of gold that you find in the sediments the process can turn primary rain forest into this in a matter of days. some this is
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president of a small community of miners who work them on one river nearby even she was disturbed by the level of destruction other miners had done to this land. and that the. better they want if it or not but mining does more than strip of forest bare miners bring in mercury to extract those tiny flecks of. gold. mercury has a very unique characteristic of binding with gold forming an amalgam for a minor it's almost like magic if there's any question as to whether or not this area was contaminated with mercury the answer is right here. in the film amazon gold documented miners working with mercury at a mine deep in the rainforest people are stepping into mercury people are stepping into that mix of sediment mercury and water in stomping on it like you would grapes. because you need all those little pieces of gold to touch the mercury to be
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able to capture it manu any miner john valdez works with mercury almost every day he is north korea it's just that. we're going to. stick it to you about that i don't know. i don't have the money. and it's a look at it looked ok because i don't know yet that the. miners can also be exposed to mercury vapors that's because once they extract their malcolm they have to burn off the mercury to get to the gold so these miners are touching mercury they're breathing mercury one of the health effects so the top american way that these miners are exposed to is extremely toxic especially when you breathe it. in starts to a fact that liver kidneys the digestive system and starts to affect the central nervous system. today the money miners aren't working because of the rain but jumbo
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of those showed the equipment he used just two days ago to burn off a piece of gold. everything we've been saying it's for this is about three grams of gold which translates into one hundred dollars which the average worker here could make in about three days. that's a lot of money immoderately that the average farm worker makes less than two hundred dollars a month that lure of gold is changing the face of the amazon as jungle is replaced by mining camps like this magnets for crime underage prostitution and poverty. symbols of gold at any cost. in two thousand and thirteen hunting images of the toll illegal mining had taken on the proving amazon went viral. the video was taken by the carnegie airborn
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observatory a high tech plane developed by gregg as nerve from the carnegie institution's department of global ecology. what is it about these mining activities that are so destructive from let's say from an environmental perspective first gold miners not only remove the forced to go down below the soil surface down into what would be called the mineral soil below the biologically active part of the soil so deep in the soil that there isn't a science to tell us that there's forest could ever recover. the devastation exposed from above was dramatic but it was also only part of the story the aircraft but south fitted with all sorts of cool technology but how did you use some of that technology to zero in on what was happening in terms of gold mining yeah one of the key technologies on board the plane is a laser imaging system what it does is we fire laser beams out of the bottom plane
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the lasers can penetrate all the way down to the forest floor and so what we end up doing is we end up imaging the forest in very high fidelity three d. most of the work that have been done on this gold mining problem was using satellites that see some of the larger mines we started finding that there was a much larger contribution from thousands of small mining operations that weren't known and suddenly we had a problem to report the rate of gold mining expansion tripled after the two thousand and eight global recession if you are on a typical amazon river before seems like it's intact all around you but this is that same river that we just were on in the boat. when we peel the forest back we reveal the ground which is shown on the right here and what we see here are gold mining operations there so by and large they're said back from the. river's edge so
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that they are being executed clandestinely the observatory also has a one of a kind spectrometer which can detect chemicals in the forest below including mercury our system is unique that it can measure four hundred twenty channels of light all at the same time from the ultraviolet to the visible part of the spectrum that we see in to the infrared into the shortwave infrared its ability to do that gives us access to a key scientific breakthrough which is the ability to measure chemicals in the environment because chemicals shine in different wavelengths of the spectrum. this video from the observatory shows one of the large mining areas in the tunnel part a buffer zone here's how the spectrometer sees that same mining area so where it's blood red that's where the mercury pollution is the most intense so it's basically
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like a signature of contamination of severe contamination and then these blue areas are porous that have no mercury in them and these are also illegal mining activities these large cleared areas all of this is illegal while the spectrometer can see mercury contamination from the sky luis ferdinand is studying where mercury goes on the ground. where else is mercury and up because the mercury is dumped into the rivers and lakes then gets into the food chain bacteria in the water convert the mercury into something even more toxic than organic compound called methylmercury which is easily absorbed in the digestive system mercury unlike many other pollutants magnifies every time it goes from one link in that food chain to the next so a fish at the top of the food chain in a contaminated region can have mercury levels millions or tens of millions of times higher. then the water in which they swim where does that fish and up in many cases
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it ends up on the dinner plate of people that live hundreds of miles downstream. louise for amanda's and his team attested hair samples of more than a thousand people throughout the model of the videos more than seventy five percent had levels above the limits considered safe by the environmental protection agency some as high as thirty three times the limit. to focus in the school. one only has a legal case pending. is going to be different. to the indian. than it is the entry but. over time mercury impacts the central nervous system it could cause problems with vision hearing and memory at high levels it can cause brain damage to unborn babies
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if you talk to minors you say hey this is a problem how do they usually respond usually they don't believe us they don't see the media defense because the type of exposure that you see here is a chronic one. by twenty twelve the price of gold was over fifteen hundred dollars an ounce in illegal mining had eaten away more than one hundred thousand acres of proven grain force in madrid videos alone. the proven government decided to get tough troops went into mining areas and work camps and equipment the strikes were part of a mall type wrong strategy cording to her and that's today's lunar a former advisor to proves ministry of the environment the study g involved police operations and the prosecution of the orse offenders and it involved.
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financial intelligence to connect the dots in follow the money in see who are the big bosses the crackdown led to violent clashes between miners and police but it didn't stop illegal mining they sent in the military thousands of police what impact to that it's been a very temporary. it's so profitable that you can loose cover million dollars in machinery and two weeks later join back in business it is that profitable this strategy also includes a process of legalizing some mining operations outside of protected areas but only if miners can prove they have proper permits and a plan to deal with the environmental impact it is impossible for many of them in that's the other part if people are never going to be able to be formal you want to tell them and start dealing with the. techno also visited prue's ministry of the
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environment in lima so there is this formalization process how are the miners responded to this in some way well in some not so would because sure it is more easy to work outside of the world for because it's more cheap that is why we need to have very clear ways for little describe to me these interdiction to crack down on some of these areas how was that how does it go in some way good but on the other hand with these very difficult to maintain that kind of interdiction because we cannot go eat every day so sometimes we pull out these people from the four b. and so on in two or three weeks there are coming back to the same place why can't you do it every day why can't you come back every three weeks because they are also do see some ways to avoid danger addiction mishal for example in some places in the buffer zone area they're working by night is inside the tumble part of buffer zone
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. it has been the target of more than one military interdiction yet our cameras caught this current mining operation at the pompa in broad daylight many of the real noble remains our allies of recently held my knee in the rug not the corruption in the air not on the tory want to go by seeing the fulfillment of the role in the service we need to shoulder could be bored but there with subsidies not the sea they feel miserably failed to put enough sheen even small parts of the start the the big government self approved at the moment of a total abandonment of the nishat i left the ministry over six months ago why did you leave the ministry i love the ministry because of a buck tong. from government in terms of environmental standards they approved a new law that weakens the ability to meet of the ministry of environment to both
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create protected areas in go after a moment of visions i was there to help not to be part of recent soil left techno also travelled into the hearts of the tumble pot to national reserve it's a place so protected that we had to register at to control stations on the way. yet even the part guards seemed overwhelmed. now with an e.c.m. but i asked about what. we saw miners working the river just a short distance away from the second control station yuri torres was our guide on this journey into the reserves he now makes his living by helping people experienced a breathtaking beauty of the rain forest as he knows the rain forest so well he spots a saddleback tamarind monkey with a baby on its back during our interview but torres used to make his living off the jungle as a gold miner one of us is
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a lie there you don't really care about forty. oh three torres's father and his brothers still make their living as illegal gold miners and you talk to them about the dangers about the environment yes they do it's a big big deal do you worry about your father and your brothers as minors yes yes they do or loved ones who are family if they don't mind what i did. was very sad it's beyond words we're talking some of the most value logical a diverse forests there are places where you could spin to for our worse what she just what's taking place in one branch of one tree in the way the light of the sun shines some different things as time passes by in the school way. become better because of that i am absolutely convinced the human
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beings of all right to nature it makes us stronger. so phil you've traveled a lot and done a lot of research in that region but this was the first time that you had seen this and been to these areas how did it affect you emotionally i've seen it from the plane and he tell my flying to this area and i've always heard about it but to actually see it firsthand was unbelievable really made me want to do something and make sure that people know how big of an issue this is i have to tell you to feel i mean just learning about this strikes a very emotional cord for me too because this is my part of the world not peru but bolivia and bolivia is part of this equation here i mean there is a lot of mining activity gold mining in bolivia as well but the issues that are going on with the magnitude of the illegal activity in peru has been spilling over into bolivia so there's a lot of gold contraband that's going through people to get water and we're getting
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export it kind of under the radar which is really really crazy it's a huge issue about cars about three billion dollars an ounce of gold going through believe you hugely is this similar to or more complicated than say blood diamonds like as a consumer what can i do to make sure i'm not contributing to the problem if i wear gold jewelry you know the advantage of the diamond problem it is just this dress to go on the ground but you can actually track it down and you can figure out based on its chemistry where it came from with gold it's a lot more difficult to do because a lot of gold gets exported it gets all melted together so you could have gold from prove mixed with gold from croatia and all of that could make a necklace found that story really opened my eyes so thank you for that really sobering but important be sure to check it so next time during techno is we bring you more. stories from the field of science diet deep into these stories do go
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