Elevated rates of gold mining in the Amazon revealed through high-resolution monitoring

Gregory P. Asner, William Llactayo, Raul Tupayachi, Ernesto Ráez Luna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


Gold mining has rapidly increased in western Amazonia, but the rates and ecological impacts of mining remain poorly known and potentially underestimated. We combined field surveys, airborne mapping, and high-resolution satellite imaging to assess road- and river-based gold mining in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon from 1999 to 2012. In this period, the geographic extent of gold mining increased 400%. The average annual rate of forest loss as a result of gold mining tripled in 2008 following the global economic recession, closely associated with increased gold prices. Small clandestine operations now comprise more than half of all gold mining activities throughout the region. These rates of gold mining are far higher than previous estimates that were based on traditional satellite mapping techniques. Our results prove that gold mining is growing more rapidly than previously thought, and that high-resolution monitoring approaches are required to accurately quantify human impacts on tropical forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18454-18459
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 12 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • CLASlite
  • Carnegie Airborne Observatory
  • Deforestation
  • Forest degradation
  • Peru

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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