Gold mining, especially ILLEGAL gold mining, has been a big problem in Suriname for the past two decades. I am not too well-informed on the subject, but I can tell you what I know. Because of my love for foreign languages, I have had the opportunity to work with two cultural anthropologists. They have been living and working in Suriname for more than a decade. They have worked on different projects in the past fifteen years. Projects I have had the privilege of working on: Malaria, HIV & STDs, Men who have sex with Men (MSM), and many more. All of these projects are very exciting and I love learning new things. I learn so much more every single time they ask me to work on a project with them.
We recently went into the gold mining fields of Brownsweg. The people who work there are Brazilians, I do not know if they are illegal. I know for a fact that the Brazilians working in Antonio do Brinco are ILLEGAL. How do I know that?
During my time in Albina last October, someone told me about a boat (or is it a small ship?). That boat brings people from Oiapoque to Albina… UNDOCUMENTED. From what I have heard, the passage costs 1.000 Reais. According to an online currency converter, that is the equivalent of US$ 223.
As you can see, working in the gold mining fields is just as dangerous as it is interesting.
The French researcher I went with will be back sometime this year for part two. Until now, he is not so sure when that will be. To tell you the truth, I do not mind at all. The Coronavirus is spreading so fast and I do not think international airports are particularly safe now.
Last weekend, I went into the gold mining fields again for two days. It was just the four of us… FOUR WOMEN! It was quite an adventure! WOW! Talk about Girl Power! I feel a Spice Girls’ Geri Halliwell coming on.
We left very early in the morning, I think it was around 06:00 AM. Two of the ladies that went along with us are relatively new to me. We have introduced not too long ago. Both of them speak Portuguese and work for the Malaria Program in Suriname. One of them is a Saramaka Maroon woman, the other one is half Javanese and half Brazilian.
Her father is a Brazilian garimpeiro, her mother is a Surinamese Javanese. I have no idea how they met, but they married, had children, moved to Brazil, divorced, then moved back here. As a result, she can speak both Dutch and Portuguese.
Both ladies have experience in the gold mining fields of Suriname. It is part of their job to visit there regularly.
I am not too sure about what other things the Malaria Program Suriname does. All I know is that they do malaria tests in the garimpo & distribute mosquito nets. If you are interested in their work, please check out their website.
Anyway… we left the city around six in the morning and arrived there around eleven.
Below you can see some pictures of the scenery. How do you get to the gold mining fields we went to? First, you have to take Afobakaweg into Brownsweg. Then, continue along Brownsweg for another 45 minutes to one hour. Now, right before one of the many bridges, you will see an entry. They chop down our beautiful trees there. I have heard that the trees are being shipped to China and Indonesia. Sigh… we are selling and ruining our beautiful country to the highest bidder. Let us pray that change will come. Suriname used to be part of the Rainforest. Now? I am not so sure…
In the bottom right photo, you will see part of Highway, which leads to Afobakaweg. I am having issues with my phone and cannot find some pictures I took. But no worries, I will make sure to transfer them to my computer ASAP. That is, when I take pictures again in the near future.
Or… maybe I should just get a new phone. How about that?
We had to stop at a small office where they desecrate our beautiful forest to chop wood. To get to where we wanted to go, Vila Brasil, we had to pass Sarafina. No, not the witch from The Wiz, but close enough. In the past, we had to pay US$100 per person to cross her terrain. A huge piece of land was given to her by the current President. I do not know why, but it is said they are friends. Anway, we were worried we would not be able to pass, but it turns out we could. Sarafina her property now belongs to IAMGold.
Not everyone who works in the interior is illegal. But that does not necessarily mean they should be there.
Now THAT is a conversation for another day. I also do not agree with that company operating in our country. Sigh. Let us hope the new government will change all of this nonsense. Yes, they are creating job opportunities for may, but certain practices and agreements need to be revised.
Sadly, we will see more and more of our nature disappearing for the love of money.
We did not have to pay, so we made our way through Sarafina her area without problems.
Please stay tuned for the second part, because I dislike long blogs.