Economic Collapse And Environomental Disaster Bring Increase in Gold Pan Handling to Brazil.
In the wake of a devastating flood, avalanche, loss of life and jobs, Brazilians in the State of Minas Gerais sift for gold.
Tragic Economic and Environmental Disaster in Brazil’s State of Minas Gerais
On November 5, 2015, two iron ore tailings dams in Bento Rodrigues in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais burst sending a cascade of toxic red mud towards the nearby village of Bento Rodrigues (population about 600) in the Mariana district in the surrounding valley. At least 19 people died in the ensuing flood and many more were injured.
The iron ore mine operated by BHP Billiton Ltd. and Vale SA has laid off 3,000 workers in the sparsely populated region, adding economic woes to an emotionally and environmentally devastated area.
Glimmer of Hope?
The State of Mias Gerais has a rich gold mining history dating back to the 1700’s. (see below) Gold mining was once the main attraction of the State of Minas Gerais.
The force of the flood following the bursting of the dams in Bento Rodrigues and the mud it carried, drudged up up the river bed leaving gold close to the surface. The flecks of gold dredged up by the flood have attracted local residents with their pans. Unlicensed gold mining is illegal in Brazil. But for some there is no choice.
According to a Bloomberg report 49 year old Davidson Gomes of Mariana described his plight “I tried getting another job, but that’s hard, so, I pan for gold.”
In addition to individuals with pans, more enterprising locals have brought teams and mechanized equipment to bear on their illegal gold mining operations.
The higher price of gold has provided the gold panners and miners with extra income for each gram of gold they manage to retrieve.
The impacted area of Minas Gerais is south of Belo Horizonte the circled capital of the state of Minas Gerais.
History of Minas Gerais
Mariana, founded in 1696 is the oldest city in the state of Minas Gerais (General Mines) in Brazil. Soon after gold was discovered in the mountains surrounding Mariana a gold rush began. The towns in the region grew as hundreds of thousands of Portugese and African slaves came to Minas Gerais to work the mines. The City of Ouro Preto (Black Gold) soon grew by 1750 to be the largest city in the New World due to the mass immingration of people coming to the area (voluntarily or involuntarily).
While most did not get rich from the mining activity, over 800 tons of gold from the Minas Gerais region were mined and sent back to Portugal in the 1700’s. At least a half a ton of gold remained in a church – Igreja Matriz de Santo Antonio (the Mother Church of San Antonio) located in Tiradentes in the state of Minas Gerais. A half ton of gold was used to decorate the Church of San Antonio pictured below.
Kinross gold mining company still operates an open pit mine gold mine in the State of Minas Gerais.
The exterior of the Igreja Matriz de Santo Antonio.
A half a ton of gold was used to decorate the Igreja Matriz de Santo Antonio.
For further information on the Bento Rodrigues dam disaster see this Bloomberg report
See U.S. gold mining slang still in use today.
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