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Ups and downs
With 30 lines, the Chilean port of Valparaiso once had the world’s biggest concentration of funiculars scaling its hillsides; now fewer than half remain. This autumn, operators advertised 10 of them for sale. “Valparaiso elevators. Unique opportunity for domestic or foreign investors,” read newspaper ads – setting off a race to save the routes.
No one has surfaced with money, while Chile’s president has promised to restore the creaky boxes into dignified Victorian follies. Next month the government is due to complete a study of how to buy the system, which is used by locals to get goods up slopes and tourists to explore the UN World Heritage Site.
Going for gold
There’s a gold rush in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, the headwaters of the Amazon. In four months, the region’s mostly illegal gold mining has gone from producing 10 per cent of Peru’s gold to 19 per cent. Hundreds of people a day are moving there, and with gold selling for about €1,000 an ounce, small-scale miners now earn enough to abandon their picks, shovels and rustic wooden sluices in favour of dump trucks, backhoes and industrial-scale mills. Their efforts are tearing down rainforest and polluting rivers with mercury, but government enforcement efforts have so far failed to overcome the lure of shiny yellow metal.