Protected Area Brownsberg destroyed by illegal gold mining

Brownsberg Nature Park
© WWF Guianas
WWF Guianas delivers shocking photo report to government of Suriname:
extensive small scale gold mining damage in Protected Area and icon Nature Park Brownsberg.

Paramaribo, Suriname, March 19, 2012.
In the seemingly ideal pristine country of Suriname -part of the Amazon biome and one of Brazil's northern neighbors- WWF Guiana’s delivered shocking evidence to Government officials today, of an icon Park on the brink of devastation as a result of activities by (illegal) small scale gold miners.

In a carefully conducted study, dozens of active mining pits in Protected Area Brownsberg Nature Park were documented with photographs and video during the last 3 weeks. The footage includes the GPS-coordinates of each mining pit. Photographs were made during both a fly-over and extensive on ground visits to the mining areas.
The Brownsberg Nature Park (IUCN category II Protected Area) is one of Suriname's icon Parks and internationally renowned for its unique biodiversity. Each year tens of thousands of national and international visitors enjoy the famous falls in the Park, some of which now lay only  a few meters away from the gold mining activities. Small scale miners in the Guianas are notorious for their wide scale and largely unmanaged use of mercury, an element which is readily dispersed and absorbed into the environment, most notably soil, water, and sediment, thus severely threatening nearby streams and rivers. Mercury tests in two of the most popular waterfalls within the park were therefore also conducted during the WWF Guianas study. Results of these tests will be available soon and presented to government officials.

Brownsberg Nature Park has always been considered a model for Green Economy dynamics: a place where unique biodiversity could be enjoyed and preserved through tourism.

or this reason, WWF Guiana’s has, since 1999, invested more than a million US dollars in the Nature Park's infrastructure and management. However, despite this investment, destruction of the Brownsberg Nature Park has been steadily progressing since 2007. WWF Guianas has been acutely aware of this and has repeatedly been alerting the Government of Suriname of this.

With gold prices rising dramatically in the last decade, so has infestation by small scale gold mining activities in all 3 of the Guianas, with the corresponding environmental damage. Full impact and consequences for the Brownsberg Park and its visitors have yet to be determined, but counteracting the damage to the pristine tropical rain forest will presumably cost millions of dollars and take many, many years.

The current government of Suriname has recently installed a high level commission to lead intensive measures against illegal gold mining and its impacts on the environment.  WWF Guianas is determined to support this commission by -amongst other things- providing technical advice and monitoring progress of the crucial restructuring and rehabilitation process that will determine the fate of Brownsberg Nature Park over the next few years. One thing is certain: the future administering team of the Brownsberg will determine the chances of successful recovery of the Park.

For more information please contact:

Karin Spong
Regional Communications Officer
Or see
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Brownsberg presentation