Conservation Strategy Fund Develops Mining Impacts Calculator to Combat Illegal Gold Mining in Brazil

Conservation Strategy Fund Develops Mining Impacts Calculator to Combat Illegal Gold Mining in Brazil

In collaboration with the Federal Public Ministry of Brazil (MPF), Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) has designed a Mining Impacts Calculator to determine the socio-environmental costs of illegal gold mining in Brazil. Using economic valuation, this tool allows users to calculate the estimated socio-environmental costs of illegal gold mining, providing information on the potential costs of the illegal mining industry on the environment and local communities across Brazil. 

As the government agency responsible for the protection of public rights in Brazil, the MPF has taken a much more active role in combating illegal activities, such as gold mining, that negatively affect Brazilian ecosystems and communities. However, in the past, Brazilian prosecutors lacked the methodology to properly assess the financial penalties for individuals and companies that committed infractions related to illegal mining activities. Without the proper technology to calculate and standardize restitution values for illegal mining, MPF agents working in enforcement had to conduct extensive investigations to determine the external costs of illegal mining activities on the ground. In addition, financial penalties were often based on the market value of gold rather than the environmental and social costs of mining to local communities.

As a result, CSF developed the Mining Impacts Calculator to fill in this information gap and provide Brazilian authorities with critical information on the estimated costs of illegal mining activities on the ground. Using the new calculator, CSF found that the extraction of 1 kilogram of gold caused roughly $183,000 to $390,000 USD in damages. In a demonstration of the tool, the CSF team was also able to calculate the estimated costs of mining in the Yanomami Indigenous Reserve in 2020 on 2,400 hectares of land. Utilizing regional data on deforestation and degradation provided by the nonprofit organization Instituto Socioambiental, CSF found that in 2020 alone the cost of illegal mining activities in the Yanomami Indigenous Reserve was roughly $20 million in damages related to deforestation, $83 million in damages related to the removal of sediment from riverbeds, and $215 million in damages related to the extensive impacts of mercury in the ground soil.

With the help of the Mining Impacts Calculator, the MPF can now easily and efficiently calculate the estimated costs of illegal gold-mining activities and enforce stricter financial penalties for lawbreakers across Brazil. Looking forward, federal police will use the estimated cost of mining infractions to support court decisions for financial penalties, safeguarding citizens and communities from future mining threats. To learn more about the tool, please visit the webpage here.