Golden Gamble: Gold mining in the Philippines, a dirty business
This documentary concerns rural Filipinos who scavenge abandoned goldmines in a continuous struggle to feed their families. Because the old mines are submerged in up to 30 feet of water, the operation relies on divers to scoop up mud from the bottom. Others treat the nuggets with mercury to extract the gold, without face masks or protective clothing. The gold is sold on for $16-32 per gram to local gold merchants.
Although this informal mining is illegal, the government turns a blind eye. The scavenging operations generally produce 10 grams per 24 hours of operation. Children as young as eight can earn about $2.30 per day to buy food for their families.
Mortality rates are extremely high, from collapse of the mine walls, failure of the divers’ breathing tubes and lung and neurological disease from mercury and other toxic exposures. Other participants in the operation develop debilitating skin rashes and ulcers.
There is pressure on the government to fence off these unofficial mines – something local Filipinos oppose as the region offers no other source of employment.
Brazil’s President vs the Amazon
SBS Dateline (2019)
This Australian documentary is about the indigenous Mundruku tribe and their efforta to stop illegal deforestation in the Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. Altogether the Amazon is home to 300 indigenous tribes. All are threatened by multinational mining, agricultural and logging interests. This film also looks at the big threat to their way of life posed by the election of right wing populist Jair Bolsonaro as president.
The fillmmakers begin by interviewing the mayor of nearly Intaituba, a strong Bolsonaro supporter facing fines and corruption charges for illegally clearing forest to set up a cattle ranch. The mayor lobbies for international gold mining interests in addition to international and domestic agribusiness.
Under Brazil’s former government, indigenous tribes could file claims to have their ancestral lands demarcated for protection from logging schemes. Bolsonaro who has transferred oversight of indigenous rights to the department of agriculture, has suspended the right of Brazil’s first peoples to make further claims.
In response, Mundruku women from adjoining villages have installed their own signs demarcating their land.They are also organizing a resistance movement to confront illegal loggers. They do so despite numerous threats they have received from logging interests in the past.
They’re not the first Amazon protectors to put their lives on the line. Hundreds of rainforest activists have been murdered (with impunity) in the decades-long battle to save the rainforest known as the lungs of the world.