Citizens of French Guiana in the Amazon rainforest are debating whether the territory should host a huge gold-mining project. A decision from Paris is expected imminently. France’s President Emmanuel Macron has declared that such projects will be allowed only if they are exemplary in terms of their environmental and economic ramifications. In our view, this project fails on both counts as currently proposed.
The Russian–Canadian Montagne d’Or mining company plans to extract about 20 kilograms of gold while discarding 80,000 tonnes of matrix every day. Situated between two protected biological reserves, the proposed 800-hectare mining site hosts some 1,558 plant and 546 vertebrate species. The area is also rich in archaeological sites, including 15 sanctuaries built by ancient American Indians.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the consortium would earn more than €3 billion (US$3.5 billion) over 12 years, of which only 2% would go to French Guiana. The taxes generated by the project would be outpaced by public subsidies, in exchange for just 750 local jobs.
At a time when France is about to officially recognize the importance of preserving biodiversity in its Constitution, it would indeed be paradoxical to authorize this mega-mining project.
Nature 561, 464 (2018)