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Project November 16, 2022

The Golden Poison Runs Through Madidi



Bolivia is the world's second largest importer of mercury. Its excessive and poorly regulated use in gold mining violates the rights of indigenous peoples in different territories of Bolivia. A scientific study in June 2021 that analyzed hair samples from women of the Esse Ejja indigenous group, settled along the Beni river basin, detected very high levels of mercury, with an average of 7.58 ppm ± 4.75 ppm, exceeding even the highest levels detected in other mining areas of Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. These levels significantly exceed the international limits and criteria (1 ppm according to EPA). Of the women studied in Bolivia, 93.7% exceeded this threshold.

As these are Indigenous people who are not involved in gold mining and whose diet is based on fish, it is clear that the extremely high levels of mercury arise from contamination of the Beni river system, which due to the relaxation of its Management Plan is being ceded for the entry and expansion of extractive mining projects.

This report seeks to determine mercury contamination levels in the rivers of northern La Paz. In addition, it seeks to give evidence of the damage it causes to the ecosystem and the populations that inhabit the Madidi National Park, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.


yellow halftone illustration of a logging truck holding logs


Rainforest Reporting

Rainforest Reporting


a yellow halftone illustration of a truck holding logs