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Gold Mining with Mercury


Submitted By JenniferAbraham
Words 456
Pages 2
Most miners of the Amazon lead a very polluted way of life. They pollute the environment they live in and they pollute themselves. The, "garimpeiros" as the miners are called in Brazil are independent farmers of the gold that flows beneath the rivers of the Amazon rain-forest. Their daily routine of early mornings, long hard days, and late nights drinking and taking cocaine contribute to their way of life. Their only goal in life is to drill for the gold dust which seems to collect at the bottoms of waterfalls then use the profits for illegal self indulgences like cocaine. To extract this gold dust they must combine mercury with the dust, and because of the mercury’s chemical make-up it is able to extract the gold from the useless rock and debris. The mercury, however, isn’t the cleanest element for the environment. Many garimpeiros carelessly use the mercury then dump it into the rivers polluting the water and the food. Also, the dust from the mercury gets inhaled by the miners, contributing to their polluted way of life. All day dragas, which are boats used for mining the bottom of rivers, are pulled to locations where gold is thought to be found, moving and polluting. Then there is the common drug use among these farmers. To sum the garimpeiros’ way of life, they live a life of drinking and drugs, women and murder. So the polluted way of life is obvious, men poison the waters and the food and then ultimately themselves, with the illegal activities of the mining trade in Brazil.
Although most do not realize their way of life and its defects, the struggling people of the Brazillian mining trade have special situations and great aspirations. Most men are poor and the temptation to work as a garimpeiros is great. Their isn’t much work other then that of an independent miner. Their line of work has what the author describes as a, "free-spirited, picaresque hero." Most men aspire to inevitably find that big strike that’s just around the corner, then get out and raise a decent life, however, this isn’t the typical case, most do not, "get-out." Now, although this seems really negative, the positive aspect of the garimpo way of life keeps young men out of social trouble and keeps the dragas moving and operating. The garimpeiros way of life should not be subject to the American standard way of living, these people do what they are brought up to do and act like the culture acts. To simplify the miners way of life is to quote a man named Ludwig that the author interviewed, "It’s a Catch 22 situation," Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t.

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