Story Publication logo September 20, 2021

Greed for Gold

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Journalist Hyury Potter looks into the connections to illegal economic activities in the Amazon.

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Satellite imagery of the mining area. Image by Earthrise Media/Airbus.

Read this report in Portuguese by clicking here.

A gold mine in the middle of the Amazon surpassed R$1.1 billion in revenue in just over a year of operation, according to the National Mining Agency (ANM). Besides the expressive values, the company Gana Gold Mineração draws attention for extracting a volume of gold 32 times larger than estimated and operating under an irregular license, despite being a billion-dollar activity with high environmental impact.

The company, which is being investigated by the federal police, is only authorized to operate because the city of Itaituba ran over state and federal legislation when licensing the mine — and because the ANM turned a blind eye to the irregularity. The case is an example of the dissonance between the institutions that should protect the Amazon, the permissiveness of governments focused on facilitating mining in the region, and the success of lobbying in Brasilia with federal deputies and ministers of the Bolsonaro government

With only one mine in activity, Gana Gold is a leader in gold exploration in the northern region of Brazil, where the Amazon is located. The company currently represents 18% of the gold mining in Pará, according to information on the ANM website. The high productivity is puzzling because the expected annual operation was 96.53 kg of gold, according to information provided by the company itself to the regulatory agency of the sector. Following these figures provided by Gana Gold, the mining company should have an annual revenue of about R$30 million if it operated within the estimate provided in the license.


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However, since 2020, the company has declared earnings of more than R$1 billion. In just eight months, it has already extrapolated 32 times the estimate informed to the agency for 2021. Such productivity is not at all common: The numbers would put the mine above the most profitable operations in the world, with an average content (amount of gold per ton of raw material extracted from the ground) much higher than neighboring ventures. How does Gana achieve this miracle? The company has not provided an explanation.

The lucrative mine is located within a federally protected area neighboring the Munduruku Indigenous Land in Itaituba, a municipality southwest of Pará. It is a region that is experiencing a massive gold rush, especially after the beginning of the Bolsonaro government — a loyal supporter of miners who is fighting to open Indigenous lands for mining.

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