Monday, December 17, 2007

Eating the forest

Garimpeiros work from daybreak to sundown and sleep in hammocks on site. Even though they live with the hope of striking it rich, the reality is that their lives are spent in what is almost bonded labour. The workmen are entitled to only a 30% share of the gold found at the mine. The rest goes to the owner of the motor, usually a businessman living in a city miles away.

One typical mine being operated by a handful of men was producing just 15g (half an ounce) of gold a day - almost £200 - leaving less than £10 a day each for the workers.

While in other circumstances this could be an acceptable wage, the garimpeiros never leave the rainforest, face endemic malaria and settle disputes by the law of the gun. Their wages are all spent on food, drink and prostitutes.
-- from Illegal, polluting and dangerous: the gold rush in French Guiana by Alex Bellos

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