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Story Publication logo August 23, 2011

The Green Gold of Chocó: An Alternative for the Mining Industry?

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A miner in Colombia. Image by Anna-Katarina Gravgaard, 2010.
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The government in Colombia has to choose between guarding its unique ecosystems or boosting its...

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A young 'Green Gold' miner in Tadó, Colombia, shows the bits of gold she gathered after a full day of physical work in her family's small-scale mine. Image by Charlotte de Beauvoir. Colombia, 2011.

Who would want to offer—or receive—a piece of jewelry stained with environmental pollution? Public awareness of the consequences of diamond mining has increased in recent years. But when it comes to gold, few people realize that the 10 grams of gold in a ring equals three tons of toxic waste.

In the heart of Colombia's Choco province, a group of miners is trying to change things. They hope to put an end to the practices of companies that have been extracting gold and platinum while leaving behind a barren land where there had once been one of the richest and most biodiverse rainforests in the world. For decades, these industrial mining companies have been dumping tons of cyanide and mercury into rivers and forests, with fatal consequences for crops, animals and people. But now locals are promoting the mining techniques of their ancestors. Though not as productive as industrial mining, these techniques are kinder to the land.

From a jewelry shop in London to the devastated rainforest of Chocó, Lorenzo Morales and Charlotte de Beauvoir tell the story of how this unique community of miners in Colombia is fighting to turn a toxic industry into a green one.

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