As of now, there are no large-scale efforts to encourage sustainable mining operations for gold or oil extraction. The environmental damage has angered advocacy groups, as well as social justice organizations and mining communities, which “have not seen these revenues translate into health services, education, or infrastructure to improve their everyday lives” (Oxfam, 2009).
Poor management policies are partially due to the conflicting agenda of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, which both promotes mining investment and enforces existing social and environmental regulations
The Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park 2003 paper, Development Issues in the Amazon, explores the future of development and conservation in the Amazon. The authors write that development will depend heavily upon “a range of international and national treaties and conservation and development programs. The [Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forest] aims to bring broad international support for resource management programs.” However, economic forces will be the greatest influence on the outlook of development and conservation programs…”Obligations to international banks such as those seen in relation to oil speculation could continue to affect the direction of development projects. As Amazonian countries become increasingly involved in global markets for natural resources, conservation efforts will continue to be challenged by economic development demands.”
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute provides a model for sustainable mining practices by helping to manage an oil concession known as Block 39. While this plan may not be applicable to gold mining regions, it could provide a framework for sustainable extraction if the gold mining industry is ever regulated and privatized.
The Biodiversity Action Plan for Block 39 incorporates “biodiversity principles and new scientific research in an attempt to minimize the negative effects of oil exploration and development in this area” (Smithsonian, Online). With this initiative, the institute has the opportunity to work with a large-scale oil company in the early stages of exploration and development, helping to “ensure that sound conservation and sustainable development, ultimately, preserve the ecological integrity of this important region” (Smithsonian, Online).
The plan is organized into six steps:
1) Conduct baseline biodiversity assessments in the region
2) Use a multi-taxa approach to create a spatial map of critical habitats within the block
3) Investigate the effect of seismic exploration activities on key wildlife species
4) Provide professional training and capacity building to Peruvian counterparts
5) Develop a local education plan to keep regional villages in Block 39 informed of the progress and results of CCES research in the area
6) Review and advise on the biodiversity components of Environmental, Social and Impact Assessments (Smithsonian, Online)
Using this model, environmental groups can work with extraction groups to impose limits of extraction in order to prioritize sustainable development and conservation. This would require the cooperation of mining organizations, the government, NGOs, and scientists worldwide, and would be a viable compromise among the parties.
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