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Meet the real-life Indiana Jones hunting for gold in the Amazon

Ecuador has a complicated history with foreign companies looking for riches in the Amazon

by Roberto Ferdman and Harriet Dedman
Apr 18 2018, 8:47pm

In 2006, Keith Barron found the largest gold deposit in Ecuador's history, changing both his life and, potentially, the future of the entire country.

Ecuador is one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world, but the vast majority of the land is still unexplored because the terrain is mostly mountains and jungle. So for almost a decade, foreign explorers were banned from Ecuador in order to give the country time to establish a formal royalty system and implement an official set of regulations.

The ban was finally lifted two years ago. Now that it's over, foreign explorers are rushing back to see what they can find, and some, like Barron, think they're close to finding the next big treasure.

VICE News traveled to the Amazon to see what modern-day gold hunting looks like, how Ecuador is dealing with its new gold rush, and whether Barron is actually about to strike gold again.

Without the help of indigenous Shuar people, who live in and around the Amazon, Barron's team would be lost in the jungle. Watch the bonus clip of members of two Shuar members of Barron's crew talking about gold hunting in the Amazon, the impact mining has on the jungle, and how their Shuar people feel about it.

Adding intrigue to the new gold rush, Barron has spent the past decade studying old Spanish maps and documents, which reference two lost gold cities called Logroño and Sevilla de Oro. He hasn't found them yet, but he knows how the Spanish would have traveled to the general area. Watch another bonus clip where VICE News stops at the oldest church in Ecuador, which the Spanish would have visited en route to the lost cities.

This segment originally aired April 12, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.