Up to now, the Amazon territories located in the French Guiana were one of the best-preserved, as with its two neighbouring countries, Suriname and Guyana, it contains more than 400,000km2 of undisturbed rainforest. However, biodiversity is now endangered by a giant open-pit gold mine project.
In 2018, a project for an open-pit gold mine called Montagne d'Or (‘Mountain of Gold’) in French Guiana was the subject of a public debate. The French government finally abandoned the project in May 2019 due to the pressure from local associations - only to see its twin mine, Esperance (‘Hope’), emerging from its ashes in 2020, just a bit further west.
In the unfortunate case where Esperance was approved, the damage would be on several layers.
Photo: French Guiana by Poccil from Wikimedia Commons
If Esperance was to come to life, it would become the largest gold mine ever to be exploited on the French territory. For 65 tons of gold, the pit would have to allow the extraction of 20 million m3 (about 215 million square feet) of rocks, and would have to be:
300 meters deep (1310 feet, the size of the Eiffel Tower); and
1.5km long (6560 feet, or about 20 soccer stadiums side-by-side).
Such a huge open-pit gold mine in the middle of the forest would cause high-scale deforestation with an obvious disastrous impact on biodiversity.
Photo: French Guiana by Mica Hernandez from Pixabay
2) CO2 emissions
A project as gigantic as this one would also have dramatic consequences on the amount of carbon emissions in French Guiana. According to the association Sauvons la Foret (‘Save the Forest’), Esperance would increase French Guiana's greenhouse gas production by 50%. This drastic increase in carbon dioxide emissions would be caused not only by the mega trucks required to transport up to 200 tons of material but also by the huge amount of electricity necessary to operate the mine.
3) Use of cyanide and other chemical products
Nowadays, the most common technique of gold extraction relies on the use of cyanide. This is a toxic chemical with significant risks of collateral damages in terms of health and pollution. Waste products from mining operations in the form of millions of tons of cyanide sludge are stored in dikes, presenting great industrial hazards. Indeed, there is a high risk of the dikes breaking, as was what happened in 1995 in Guyana and in 2000 in Romania.
The real Hope for the French Guiana
Currently, local and natives associations are fighting against the Esperance project, and, in general, the mining industry in French Guiana.
If you wish to support them, you can spread awareness by sharing this article and sign and share the following petition (in French):
Novethic, “APRÈS L’ANNULATION DE LA "MONTAGNE D'OR", UN NOUVEAU PROJET MINIER GÉANT APPARAÎT EN GUYANE” Retrived from
Ina actu“Le cyanure : la pollution des mines d’or“ Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSTTwchfbe8