Gold Rush .
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Fever, Gold Fever by Mads Nissen The global financial crisis has sparkled up gold prices and so, as a result, the search for El Dorado continues today. Hidden deep inside the Brazilian Amazonian rainforest lies the continent's biggest illegal gold mine, Eldorado do Juma. What used to be untouched virgin rainforest, is now a permanent campsite.  It is home to an army of poor Brazilians willing to give their blood, sweat and tears in the hope of a better life; the men by taking shifts in the mines, the women by working in the bars at night. Alves Do Silva is showing his gold teeth. Gold he found himself. He's been working as a garimpeiro for about 30 years. Arial view of the Amazon rainforest. This man was part of the initial group of three who in 2006 discovered gold here. The three guys made a pact of secrecy, but it all fell apart when one of them couldn't keep quiet.  A blog was posted on the internet, and soon after thousands of people arrived to the, once peaceful, place. Piece by piece every hill and rock, no matter the size, will be washed apart with a fire hose until it all turns into a thick slurry. The slurry is then filtered, strained and washed with mercury.  Since gold is the heaviest metal it will eventually be the only thing that's left to pick up. Driven by the gold fever, Venicius Perfira De Souza came to Eldorado do Juma from the neighbouring state, Rondonia, almost 50 days ago. At this point he still hasn't earned a thing. 44-year old Ursulino Loobes De Souza has spent most of his working life in different gold mines. Different from most others garimpeiros (from the Portuguese word meaning 'prospector') he brings his wife and kids along with him. With a small group of comrades, Francisco is digging a tunnel into the mountain. So far it's only 15 meters deep, but it's hot, dangerous, manual work so it takes time. A garimpiero (gold prospector) was cut by a machete and now has an infection in his finger. A child in a bar that also serves as brothel. Most garimpeiros live a solitary life far away from their family. They are always on the move to the next big gold rush. Some occasionally send money back home, while many others have lost all contact. Very few bring along their wife and kids, but children are seen around the bars where their mothers work at night. A venomous snake has entered the dance floor!  Nature is one of the major losers of the gold rush: Pristine rainforest is being cleared and rivers put to death by contamination and toxins such as mercury. Maria Antonia Cardosa Peco, 40, is dancing on a piece of wood. She says she is half Japanese, but people in the bar don't believe her. "It's just because she's ashamed of being Indian", they say. A garimpiero (gold prospector) leaving a bar at night. Small pieces of gold. At the mine a gram of gold is sold for about 18 euros. The Transamazonica Highway cuts through the Amazon rainforest and links Eldorado Do Juma with the rest of the world.  Three-quarters of all forest clearings in the Amazon are within 30 kilometres of a public road, but rivers are also widely used as transportation to bring the hungry garimpeiros to new and untouched places. MAY 2012 BACK ISSUE Back to current issue