UK’s most valuable import from Brazil is fuelling deforestation; WWF call for a ban on gold imports

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WWF is calling on the UK Government to ban the import of gold from Brazil until it can be proven that it’s not sourced from illegal and deforesting gold production, amid concerns illegally extracted gold could be flooding UK supply chains. 

This follows WWF’s release of shocking new aerial images in areas of the Brazilian Amazon, showing the extensive presence of illegal mines, fuelling deforestation and pollution, as illegal mining continues to increase.   

Gold is the UK’s most valuable import from Brazil, accounting for 25% of the total value of goods exported from the country to the UK. As global demand has soared over the past two years, so has the price of gold, incentivising illegal miners to increase production.  

WWF is also witnessing a huge increase of “Garimpo” – small scale illegal gold mining – in Indigenous lands and protected areas, which is leading to deforestation and water contamination, while fuelling land grabs and violence across the region.  

Illegal mining in Brazil is causing local communities to lose their land and livelihoods, without deriving any benefits from the extraction of this precious commodity. In the decade from 2010-2020, the area occupied by mining inside indigenous lands in Brazil grew 495%, and in the case of conservation areas, the growth was 301%. 

One of the most sinister impacts of illegal mining can be seen in the mercury levels contaminating the surrounding habitats and communities. Mercury is extensively used to separate and extract illegal gold, which ends up in rivers, poisoning wildlife like fish, and the Indigenous peoples and local communities who rely on them as a key source of protein.  

Mike Barrett, Executive Director of Science and Conservation at WWF, said:  

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“Illegal gold mining in the Brazilian Amazon is wreaking havoc on people and nature, fuelling record deforestation, polluting rivers and harming wildlife, as well as having a deeply damaging impact on the lives and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples and local communities.  

“What happens in the Amazon doesn’t stay there. People and nature across the world are already feeling the effects of the climate crisis and as the UK swelters under unprecedented temperatures this week it is a stark reminder of the future we all face if we fail to address the destruction of precious landscapes like the Amazon. 

“If the UK government is serious about tackling deforestation, and delivering the promises made at COP26, then it must act now and ban the import of Brazilian gold until it can be proven that it’s not sourced from illegal and deforesting gold production.”  

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