Amazon Gold: a crazy gold rush in the greenest area in the world

The Amazon Rainforest, a living and pulsating organ which is in charge of our Planet’s balance; a priceless reserve for animal and vegetal species; an environmental treasure as big as the ninth country in the world. There would be many reasons to preserve it, and just one basic motor for destroying it: human greed.

Amazon Gold, documentary by Reuben Aaronson and project of Amazon Aid Foundation, is the disturbing account of a clandestine trip to this part of the world, narrated by the Academy Award winners Sissy Spacek and Herbie Hancock. Ron Haviv and Donovan Webster, two war journalists led by a Peruvian biologist uncover an unknown, devastating reality: in the heart of the rainforest a ruthless gold rush is taking place.

amazon gold poster

Before September, 11th the price for an ounce of gold was $250 but then, in a short time, it had risen by more than $1200 per ounce: the result has been illegal mining which is destroying every form of life and natural resources, from the enormous trees crawling with biodiversity to the streams of water, irremediably polluted by toxic mercury, necessary to pinpoint the precious metal.

On the shoot, we witnessed gaping holes the size of football fields being created in just a weekthe director states. “Each hole represents the death of giant sized thousand year old trees and countless species of plants and animals that used to call those trees “home”. One tree in the rainforest was found to have more than 40 species of ants living in it. It is hard to estimate how many hundreds of years it will take for this to come back, if ever.”

A gold miner stands in a barrel filled with mercury in order to separate the gold from the excavation matter, in the mining area of Lamal, Madre de Dios region, Peru in July 30, 2010. The miners mix the excavation matter with mercury to form an amalgam, which they commonly tramp on with bare feet in a barrel. The amalgam is then heated to vaporize the mercury, leaving behind a nugget of gold.

The film aims to speak clear to the audience, so that each viewer feels the emotional impact of the message on the screen. Since the premiere of Amazon Gold in 2012, the documentary has been screened on four continents, translated into six languages, and won numerous awards including the first Green Film Network Award at the 2014 International Environmental Film Festival in Paris. Building on the success of Amazon Gold, Amazon Aid Foundation is nowadays announcing the premiere of the new film River of Gold at the 2016 Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, also a member of Green Film Network.

Sarah Dupont, one of the producers, commented: “I wanted to create a film, something beautiful and scientifically perfect, something that would make sense to a broad audience so that they too can step forward to protect the Amazon and the future of the world as we know it. But how was I to deliver the message? How could I get peoples attention in this chaotic time? For me, I knew that it felt like war. A war against the environment. Ecocide.

Gold mining.

A real huge ecocide, which is happening day after day and is consuming the forest. The Nothing is getting bigger: it is not a metaphor, but a perceivable condition. There is a clear line between the borders of the green, luxuriant, lively forest and the waste land that the miners leave behind them.

The inhabitants’ powerlessness (they are often threatened and sent away from their land), the local authorities’ connivance, the racquet operating in gold trade are no good premises for the future. From one side, the Peruvian Secretary of Environment has decided to use the army to create a no-mining zone, reclaim the land from mercury and prevent mafia infiltration; from the other side, miners reply finding more and more areas to exploit.

Nevertheless, it’s the same director who sends a message of hope which is also a collective call to action: “It is a complicated issue” he tells. “But 100% of it is manmade. And if we created it, we can also end it.