Paraguay is one of the countries in South America that has seen very little in the way of mineral exploration. This is not so say that mineral resources such as gold are not available to be mined. On the contrary, the limited amount of exploration would indicate that there is high potential for discoveries in the very near future.
The lack of gold and precious metal mining in the country has much to do with the remoteness and regulatory factors over the past several centuries that have limited the amount of exploration throughout Paraguay.
Any large-scale mining endeavors did not begin until as recently as 1976, when Anschutz Corporation undertook uranium explorations within the country.
Gold Mining Regions
Over the past few decades, there have been a handful of commercial mining companies operating within Paraguay searching for both Uranium and gold deposits. The potential for gold in the country has only recently been of interest.
The Paso Yabai mining district is located roughly 200 kilometers southwest of Asuncion. Latin American Minerals began operations here in 2006 and began producing gold just in the past few years. This is one of the few operating gold mines within the country by a commercial producer.
Gold mining companies that are in Paraguay right now are still very much in the exploration phases.
The primary mines operating within the Paso Yabai district are producing gold ore that is of 77% purity, with the remaining metal mainly silver.
Illegal Mining and Environmental Challenges
The gold here has not only attracted large companies, but small artisanal miners as well, who find gold in the streams and rivers within the region. Arroyo Gasory is one of the largest waterways in the district, and has been mined heavily in recent history by local placer miners, or “garimpeiros.”
Unfortunately, primitive mining practices have caused environmental issues in the area, primarily the improper use of mercury in the mining practices. Mercury is used to capture fine placer gold deposits that hide within the gravel of the streams. Used improperly, this mercury goes into the waterways and contaminates the fishery.
Much of the mining that is being done by local miners is unregulated and results in the contamination that effects the local populations.
Placer mining methods used by small-scale miners in Paraguay are similar to those used all around the world, with simple devices like homemade gold pans and bateas used to extract the fine gold. Even in rich areas, it may take several days for a miner to extract even a gram of gold, but it is still worth their effort to do it, as many of them can make more money than they can from logging and ranching.
Uranium & Diamonds in Paraguay
In addition to gold reserves, there is also growing interest for several minerals within Paraguay. Two of them that are of high interest are uranium and diamonds. Rare earth minerals have also been discovered when sampling many locations in Paraguay. These minerals are yet to be exploited, but the potential is high for future development.
Additional resources that are certain to attract future interest in Paraguay are the known deposits of iron, copper, lead, manganese, and silver, all of which are still considered unexplored for the most part.
Recent government investment and tax benefits have much to do with the growing interest by mining companies.
Compared to mining in other South American countries, Paraguay is quite favorable for mining companies and is attracting attention that was not their previously.