British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Garimpo Canaan : a successful case of reclamation of an artisanal gold mine in the Amazon Sousa, Rodolfo N.; Veiga, Marcello M. (Marcello Mariz)


Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon region was increased in the 1970’s. The total amount of forest already cut to the date is over 700,000 km² or over 18% of the original forest. Mining activities in the Amazon also escalated after 1970, with thousands of artisanal miners extracting gold and removing portions of forest and soil along the riverbanks and streams, causing deforestation and releasing sediments and mercury into the water bodies. In the last three decades, hundreds of thousands of pits were opened in the process of colluvial gold exploitation and most of these pits have never been refilled. Following a common trend, miners migrate to new areas without reclaiming the mines spreading the environmental impact all over the Amazon. About 300 to 600 new open pits formed by hydraulic monitor mining are opened annually in the Tapajós region, the world’s largest artisanal gold mining area. In the Tapajos River basin, an example of good artisanal gold mining practice was identified. The owner of the “Garimpo” Canaan has introduced outstanding environmental practices which have made the area a reference in reclamation of open pits in the region. In this site, most old pits have been backfilled with the tailings from new excavations. In some refilled pits the vegetation is recomposing naturally and others have been reforested. After 6 years of plantation some areas showed trees with average diameter of 15 cm, height of 10 m and volume of 23 m3/ha. This example represents not only an environmental achievement but also a long-term alternative of economic diversification for miners in the area, as the surface gold deposits have been depleting in a fast pace.

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