How much illegal gold is exported from Brazil?

Bnamericas Published: Friday, August 06, 2021
How much illegal gold is exported from Brazil?

Illegal gold production represents a significant part of the Brazilian mining sector, heightening social and environmental concerns, according to a study by NGO Instituto Escolhas.

Total 2020 gold exports reached 111t valued at US$4.9bn. But 17%, or 19t, were mined without registration or a permit, suggesting illegal origins.

"There is an upward trend in illegal activities related to gold, because gold prices remain high and because the inspection systems in Brazil are increasingly weakened," Larissa Rodrigues, project manager at Instituto Escolhas told BNamericas. 

Illegal gold came mainly from the states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Amazonas, and Goiás, and the area around Brasília.

Officially, however, "these states either did not produce a single gram of gold or exported much more than their [overall gold] production, which suggests they are exporting unregistered gold or gold that was mined in other states," the NGO said.

Main destinations are Canada, Switzerland, Poland, the UK, the UAE, Italy, and India. These countries should pressure the Brazilian government to adopt gold traceability, according to Instituto Escolhas.

Illegal gold mining is part of a bigger debate about allowing mining on indigenous land. The government claims opening protected areas will help regularization and oversight to minimize environmental impacts.

"States like Roraima currently have intense illegal mining activity, mainly gold. In meetings I've had with people from the region, they show that there is a lot of gold being exploited in Roraima, which is prohibited, but to avoid inspection and seizure in Brazil, this gold is sold in Colombia," the chair of the lower house mining and energy committee, Édio Lopes, told BNamericas in a recent interview.

“This happens in other states in northern Brazil also with diamond mining. So, measures are needed in Brazil to legalize these activities,” he added.

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