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The fears of the inhabitants of Serra Leste in the northern state of Para have come true. When the Brazilian government announced to the world at large the discovery of a gold mine that could probably be Latin America's biggest, the local residents weren't amused ( Down To Earth , Vol 4, No 20).
To the fore, came the memory of one of the century's biggest gold rushes in the '80s, in nearby Serra Pelada, which saw looting and a spate of other lawless activities as the garimpeiros (wild cat miners) descended on the city in large hoards. While the city's environment took a beating, the gold rush also marked a period of death and disease. And now the scene at Serra Leste, seems to be a repeat of the earlier gold rush.
The garimpeiros have stopped the Companhia Vale do Rio Doce ( cvrd ), the government-controlled mining company, from continuing the exploration. They have reportedly laid claim to the mine. The siege of the mine has so far cost cvrd a loss of us $5 million. To leave the site, the garimpeiros are demanding some 30 kg of gold for each of the 22,700 former miners who worked at Serra Pelada.
The battle which reached the court has resulted in a victory for the cvrd as the court announced that the 0 will have to leave the site and also pay fine for illegal occupation. cvrd officials are now waiting for the court to enforce the ruling which could possibly take some time.
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