The small-scale mining techniques applied all over the Amazon river basin use water from streams, including digging and riverbed suctioning, rarely preventing environmental impacts or recovery of the impacted areas. As a consequence, thousands of tons of inorganic sediment (which can contain mercury) have been discharged directly into the rivers creating sediment plumes that travel hundreds of kilometers downstream with unknown consequences to the water quality and aquatic biota. We hypothesize that because of intensification of mining activities in the Brazilian Amazon, clear water rivers such as the Tapajós and Xingu rivers and its tributaries are becoming permanently turbid waters (so-called white waters in the Amazonian context). To investigate this hypothesis, satellite images have been used to monitor the sediment plume caused by gold mining in Amazonian rivers. Given the threat of intense water siltation of the Amazonian rivers combined with the technological capacity of detecting it from satellite images, the objective of this chapter is to inform the main activities carried out to develop a monitoring system for quantifying water siltation caused by small-scale gold mining (SSGM) in the Amazon rivers using multi-satellite data.
Part of the book: Limnology