In a victory for environmentalists, the Canadian gold mining company, Iamgold, has been refused permission by Nicholas Sarkozy to excavate in the Kaw territory in French Guiana. The French President stated in the announcement that gold mining was incompatible with maintaining the biodiversity of the region. Iamgold is planning legal action.
Kaw is 665 km south of the capital Cayenne. The area is covered in primary forest and well known for the diversity of both animal and plant species as well as its gold mining potential. French Guiana has suffered for years from both legal and illegal open cast or placer mining, resulting in pollution from heavy metals, cyanide, arsenic, lime.
Photo of a gold mine in Guyana from Flickr user caribbeanfreephot0. Creative Commons licence.
When you see the devastation above and hear of the pollution caused in other places, such as the Omai mine in Guyana when 3.4 million cubic meters of cyanide rich effluent was released after a dam failed, there doesn't seem to be any argument for it. But of course this is an area of high unemployment (26.5%) and there was a prospect of over 300 direct jobs plus nearly 600 indirect ones. Whether the new jobs created would be filled by local people is another matter though. Very often in these cases where employment is promised, the skilled positions are taken by incomers.