mercury (c) Bram Ebus

Investigation into the illegal mercury route in the Amazon

We are proud to announce the launch of the interactive platform “Mercury, chasing the quicksilver” that presents an investigation on mercury trade in the Guiana Shield by our partner InfoAmazonia in partnership with Armando.Info and Fantástico (TV Globo).  

Mercury is one of the driving forces behind small-scale gold mining in the Amazon. The liquid metal is considered essential to extract gold, but mercury pollutes fragile ecosystems and harms human health.

‘Our partners thoroughly investigated the underworld of mercury,’ says Mark van der Wal, Senior Expert Ecosystems & Extractives at IUCN NL. The mercury trade remains in the shadows of the gold industry, but few people know that mercury itself represents a multi-million dollar business.

Nexus for smuggling

One of the hidden doors for mercury to enter the Amazon is the Guiana Shield region. The legal import of this toxic substance through Guyana makes it the nexus for smuggling to neighboring countries like Suriname, Venezuela, and Brazil, where it’s been outlawed.

The investigation was conducted in four countries, namely Guyana, Suriname, Brazil and Venezuela for over one year. Along with this special investigation, a documentary directed by Tom Laffay will be launched at a later point.

Mercury governance

The platform is supported by IUCN NL under the mercury governance project of Shared Resources, Joint Solutions, a strategic partnership between IUCN NL, WWF and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as by the Rainforest Journalism Fund of the Pulitzer Center.

IUCN NL’s mercury governance project has investigated the formal and informal mercury trade in eight countries including Suriname, Guyana, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Philippines. For more articles on the project and the report, visit

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Mark van der Wal
Senior Expert Ecosystems & Extractives