Gold-rush in a forested El Dorado: deforestation leakages and the need for regional cooperation

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8 March 2017

Tropical forests of the Guiana Shield are the most affected by gold-mining in South America,experiencing an exponential increase in deforestation since the early 2000’s.Using yearly deforestation data encompassing Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and theBrazilian State of Amapá, we demonstrated a strong relationship between deforestation due togold-mining and gold-prices at the regional scale. In order to assess additional drivers ofdeforestation due to gold-mining, we focused on the national scale and highlighted theheterogeneity of the response to gold-prices under different political contexts. Deforestation dueto gold-mining over the Guiana Shield occurs mainly in Guyana and Suriname. On the contrary,past and current repressive policies in Amapá and French Guiana likely contribute to thedecorrelation of deforestation and gold prices. In this work, wefinally present a case studyfocusing on French Guiana and Suriname, two neighbouring countries with very different levelsof law enforcement against illegal gold-mining. We developed a modelling framework to estimatepotential deforestation leakages from French Guiana to Suriname in the border areas. Based onour assumptions, we estimated a decrease in deforestation due to gold-mining of approx. 4 300hectares in French Guiana and an increase of approx. 12 100 hectares in Suriname in response tothe active military repression of illegal gold-mining launched in French Guiana.Gold-mining in the Guiana Shield provides challenging questions regarding REDDþimplementation. These questions are discussed at the end of this study and are important topolicy makers who need to provide sustainable alternative employment to local populations inorder to ensure the effectiveness of environmental policies.