End Mercury Poisoning Caused by Illegal Gold Mines

Target: Fernando Coelho Filho, Minister of Mines and Energy of Brazil

Goal: Shut down illegal gold mines in Brazil and stop mercury contamination of local people and wildlife.

Mining of valuable metals in the Amazon basin results in deforestation, destruction of indigenous lands, and toxic runoff. The biggest threat is illegal gold mining, which results in significant amounts of mercury contamination to the local environment. Mercury poses a huge threat to the indigenous people and local wildlife because it builds up in an ecosystem until it reaches lethal levels.

Mercury is used in gold mines because its liquid form binds to gold, making the valuable metal easily identifiable. Once the gold is isolated, the mercury is evaporated off and escapes into the atmosphere. Once in the environment, the mercury accumulates as it moves through the food chain, with devastating effects for the indigenous people who rely on the Amazon River’s fish.

In the last several years, there has been a dramatic increase in evidence of illegal gold mines, resulting in an unprecedented level of conflict between these illegal miners and indigenous people. Along with direct conflicts over land use, the indigenous people of affected areas are suffering from widespread mercury poisoning. Over a long period of time, mercury causes neurological problems, vision loss, birth defects, and damages the entire nervous system beyond repair.

As many Amazon species are already facing threats from overhunting and habitat destruction, the presence of mercury can have lethal effects on their populations. The Giant Amazon River turtle, or the Arrau turtle, is particularly at risk because its population has already been devastated by illegal poachers and mega-dams splintering their nesting grounds and migration routes. These huge turtles were hunted relentlessly until they were considered endangered in the 1980s. Since then, conservation efforts have led to the recovery of their species. However, due to their slow reproductive rate and specific habitat requirements, the Arrau turtles remain vulnerable to mercury contamination.

The Brazilian government must shut down illegal gold mines in the Amazon and create a system for assessing mercury toxicity in the environment. Sign the petition below to call for justice for the people and animals poisoned by illegal gold mines and to prevent further damage.


Dear Minister Filho,

Illegal gold mining is rampant in the Amazon basin and results in toxic mercury runoff that poisons the indigenous people and protected species of the area. This is a threat to the ancient cultures and diverse ecosystems that make the Amazon basin so unique.

Indigenous people face direct conflict with violent miners and more insidious damages as the toxic, long-lasting mercury invades their environment and food supply. Species such as the Giant Amazon River turtle that has only just been classified as no longer endangered must combat mercury poisoning on top of threats from poachers and dam construction.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Whaldener Endo

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