Saturday, October 29, 2016

Serra Pelada

Serra Pelada ("Bald Mountain") was a large gold mine in Brazil 430 kilometres (270 mi) south of the mouth of the Amazon River. In January 1979 Farmer Genésio Ferreira da Silva hired a geologist to investigate whether gold he found on his property was part of a larger deposit. Soon word leaked out that da Silva was sitting on one of the largest deposits in the world.

By the end of the week a gold rush had started with thousands of people descending on the farm. Five weeks later there were 10,000 people on Ferreira's property and another 12,000 nearby. Huge gold nuggets were discovered, the biggest weighing nearly 6.8 kilograms (15 lb).

The government banned women and alcohol at the site. This caused the nearest settlement, until then an isolated village, to morph into a bustling center of “stores and whores”, where under-age girls worked for flakes of gold, and 60 to 80 murders occurred every month.

Use of mercury in the gold extraction process left large areas around the mine dangerously contaminated. People eating fish downstream from the mine have elevated mercury levels.
During the 1980s, up to 100,000 garimpeiros (artisanal miners) produced an estimated 2 million ounces of gold plus platinum and palladium, from a hand dug open pit. Garimpeiro production declined sharply in the mid 80s due to frequent pit wall collapse, the water table, and flooding.
COOMIGASP, a Brazilian cooperative, was a granted Exploration License in 2007. Colossus Minerals and COOMIGASP formed a partnership to develop the remaining mineralization at Serra Pelada. Colossus lost over $300 million on the Serra Pelada project and became insolvent. The current company is the result of a 200 for 1 rollback that passed control to creditors.
In August, 2014 it was announced that COOMIGASP had launched a legal challenge against Colossus that attempts to dispute the validity of the legal agreements.

The property is currently on "care and maintenance".