It was reported in 1995 that more than 60 North American, European, Japanese and South African mining companies joined the gold rush in the Guiana Highlands of Brazil and Venezuela, where as much as 10% of the planet's gold reserves may lie. They are destroying the home of the last unassimilated Indian tribes in the New World and one of the planet's richest rain forests.
2. Minas Guariche in Venezuela, a strip-mining operation, is partly owned by the Venezuelan explorer and naturalist Charles Brewer-Carias, a highly respected research associate of the University of California and the New York Botanical Gardens. Mr. Brewer has a reputation in North America as a saviour of the Yanomani Indians, yet he has been running open-pit mines on more than 12,000 acres in the environmentally protected headwaters of the Cuyuni River. The Venezuelan police charged that in 1984 he was using unsalaried Miquiritares Indians in illegal mining operations in the Amazon forests. A Venezuelan congressional commission said that Mr. Brewer had used scientific expeditions as a cover for illegal mining. He brought anthropologists from the University of California to the last uncontacted cluster of aboriginal villages in the Amazon without quarantine precautions or medical follow-up. Three Venezuelan Air Force colonels asserted that these trips were "to extract gold". Venezuela's assistant attorney general for indigenous affairs said that the expeditions were conducted without the knowledge or permission of Venezuela's Indian affairs agency, as required. Since 1993, the vice president of Minas Guariche was Robert Friedland, who used to own the Summitville gold mine in Colorado, which went bankrupt in 1992 and today is a toxic mess (a lake of cyanide, a ruined river and a polluted reservoir) that would cost more than US$100 million to clean up.