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The gold rush threatening the world's greenest country
Suriname’s waterways and trade winds carry mercury, a toxic metal used in gold extraction, to regions far removed from the country's gold mines
By Bram Ebus and Wilfred Leeuwin
Dialogo Chino, London
Thursday, September 14, 2023
Fast-paced Surinamese men carrying sports bags heavy with gold rush through the entrance of one of the gold shops in the centre of Paramaribo, the capital city of Suriname.
The lookout, a man in sunglasses and shorts, watches from the parking lot, his hand resting on the crossbody bag fastened across his chest. Inside, Chinese, Portuguese, Surinamese, and Dutch can all be overheard as kilograms of gold change hands. No one asks the men where the gold was mined before they leave the shop, bags now heavy with cash.
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At the counter, Harry Souza, a muscular Brazilian man, shows off his tattoos and a small metal bucket full of gold bars of different sizes and colours. There are even some "sponges," another name for the amalgam of mercury and gold that comes straight from the mines and looks like a luxurious coral reef.
"The redder it is, the higher the quality," says Souza. "The greener or blacker, the less valuable."
In a back room of the gold shop, a blowtorch is spitting flames, and Souza heads back to burn off the surplus mercury under an extractor hood. The amount of gold left behind in the bucket weighs around 1 kilogram -- a market value of more than US$62,000 (as of the Sept. 4 price). ...
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