A 21st-century gold rush hits the Brazilian Amazon

Our fair city of Seattle was once a gold rush town, a way station for loading up on supplies and sex before heading to the Yukon. So we feel an affinity for the mud-caked prospectors combing a remote stretch of Brazilian rainforest in hopes of finding nuggets worth $530 an ounce. We feel pangs of recognition when we hear that the makeshift city of Eldorado do Juma is sprouting tree-branch-and-tarp businesses including bakeries and a 16-room brothel. But we feel just a bit ill when we remember that all that mining — an “open door” apparently sparked by a math teacher’s internet account of local miners’ finds — is leading to felled trees, diverted streams, and other nasty land abuses. Not to mention rampant malaria. Regulators hope to keep some 10,000 giddy miners from using heavy machinery and mercury to get their gold, but the purported landowner wants to cash in. “This place has a great future,” he says. “There are other minerals here besides gold. We have to get organized to exploit it.”