International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award

5-2017

Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P)

Department

International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Florencia Sangermano

Abstract

Environmental hazards commonly associated with gold mining include local pollution of the air, water, and soil. Specifically, mercury used to extract gold bioaccumulates in the environment, contaminating rivers and watersheds and posing a danger to wildlife in regards to its developmental, hormonal, and neurological effects. To conceal these typically illegal operations happening along rivers, artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) often occurs in remote areas with high faunal biodiversity. The Madre de Dios region of southern Peru is a global biodiversity hotspot and has been undergoing extensive ASGM for years. The impact of ASGM on biodiversity is largely unknown. This study uses random forest classification to map mining area in Madre de Dios and models pollutant transport from ASGM sites to predict what locations and species assemblages at risk. Multi Criteria Evaluation is used to determine how flow accumulation, distance from mining area, total suspended sediment load, and soil porosity influence the vulnerability of regions to mercury pollution. The resulting risk map identifies areas of greatest risk of mercury pollution in Madre de Dios.

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