For the first time ever, gold has passed the $1500-per-ounce mark, and has been riding high for a very long time now. This incredibly high price has lead to a leap in scams taking advantage of people's interest in the precious metal, and a major increase in the amount of mining going on — to the detriment of the environment.
A new research paper has looked at Madre de Dios, Peru, and found that the increased mining activity due to gold's high prices has lead to massive environmental destruction. Since 2003, the rate of mining deforestation has increased to six times the non-mining rate. Over 11,000 hectares of rainforest have been lost in this one area due to the high demand.
There has been an accompanying massive spike in the mercury imported into the country, which is used in extraction of gold — and due to poor policing, much of the waste metal is released into air, soil and water, leading to further environmental destruction.