M & Ms - Miners and Mercury

Most miners of the Amazon lead a very polluted
way of life. They pollute the environment they live in
and they pollute themselves. The, "garimpeiros" as
the miners are called in Brazil are independent
farmers of the gold that flows beneath the rivers of
the Amazon rain-forest. Their daily routine of early
mornings, long hard days, and late nights drinking
and taking cocaine contribute to their way of life.
Their only goal in life is to drill for the gold dust
which seems to collect at the bottoms of waterfalls
then use the profits for illegal self indulgences like
cocaine. To extract this gold dust they must
combine mercury with the dust, and because of the
mercury’s chemical make-up it is able to extract the
gold from the useless rock and debris. The mercury,
however, isn’t the cleanest element for the
environment. Many garimpeiros carelessly use the
mercury then dump it into the rivers polluting the
water and the food. Also, the dust from the mercury
gets inhaled and eating by the miners, contributing
to their polluted way of life. All day dragas, which
are boats used for mining the bottom of rivers, are
pulled to locations where gold is thought to be
found, moving and polluting. Then there is the
common drug use among these farmers. The author
even quotes a man named Lincoln, an owner of a
draga, saying, "[n]ot that I object to cocaine. It’s no
worse than anything else, as far as I know, and
addicts make good workers." To sum the
garimpeiros’ way of life, they live a life of drinking
and drugs, women and murder. So the polluted way
of life is obvious, men poison the waters and the
food and then ultimately themselves, with the illegal
activities of the mining trade in Brazil.

Although most do not realize their way of life and
its defects, the struggling people of the Brazillian
mining trade have special situations and great
aspirations. Most men are poor and the temptation
to work as a garimpeiros is great. Their isn’t much
work other then that of an independent miner. Their
line of work has what the author describes as a,
"free-spirited, picaresque hero." Most men aspire
to inevitably find that big strike that’s just around the
corner, then get out and raise a decent life,
however, this isn’t the typical case, most do not,
"get-out." Now, although this seems really negative,
the positive aspect of the garimpo way of life keeps
young men out of social trouble and keeps the
dragas moving and operating. The garimpeiros way
of life should not be subject to the American
standard way of living, these people do what they
are brought up to do and act like the culture acts. To
simplify the miners way of life is to quote a man
named Ludwig that the author interviewed, "It’s a
Catch 22 situation," Damned if you do, Damned if
you don’t.

Category: Miscellaneous