International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

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


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Florencia Sangermano


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.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.