Illegal Mining in Amazonia


February 15th, 2023


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The Challenge

Rondônia was chosen as the central area of interest for this project as it is clear from satellite imagery just how devastated the area has been by deforestation. Mining, agriculture, fires and infrastructure are the main drivers of deforestation in the Amazon.

The main area to be monitored is the section of the Madeira River that runs Southwest of Porto Velho.

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Our Solution

To further understand if the mines and associated activities are impacting the Areas of Interest (AoI) that we have begun to identify, we monitored and measured the causes and effects of water turbidity, vegetation health and vegetation indices (BAI/NDVI).

The main conclusions of this solution are:

  • Increasing burned and cleared areas within our AoIs year on year
  • Turbidity levels showing potential waste sediment dumping by the mines along the riverbank
  • Sediment build-up and high turbidity has caused islands in the river to form

And these can cause effects on the ecosystem and have significant impacts on the existing communities, such as:

  • Reduction of food supplies for water ecosystems
  • Degradation of spawning beds, preventing successful development of fish eggs and larvae
  • Alteration of gill function, which can reduce growth rate and increase susceptibility to disease
  • Modification of natural movements and migrations

It is clear from this data alone the rate of forest decline in the Amazon and how unsustainable these practices are, both for the environment and the population of Brazil.

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