Image: An aerial photo shows the environmental destruction in the wake of illegal gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon. Courtesy of Gregory Asner, Carnegie Institution for Science
npr.org - May 17, 2015 - Jason Beaubien
Gold has been a blessing and a curse for Peru for centuries. In the 16th century, one of the first Spanish explorers to arrive, Francisco Pizarro, was so enthralled by the mineral riches that he took the Inca king hostage.
Pizarro demanded a room filled with gold for the release of the Atahualpa. According to legend, the Inca delivered the ransom, packing a room from floor to ceiling with the precious metal.
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