Peru Takes Steps to Curb Wildcat Miners

B. McPherson

The Peruvian government has taken a bold step in protecting its environment. They have recently passed a law aimed at illegal or informal miners providing for jail sentences upon conviction. The bill goes further, providing penalties for those who sell equipment to the illegal miners or support the illegal activities.

Illegal mining has been blamed for environmental destruction, including the despoiling of reserves and land set aside for indigenous people.

This move has not been without opposition. Informal miners in Madre de Dios have taken to the streets protesting that the new legislation discriminates against them. Monday saw a gathering of about 5 000 in the streets of Puerto Maldonado demanding the repeal of the law. (Source: Peru thisWeek) But an estimated 30 000 miners operate in this area.

The skyrocketing price of gold has created a gold rush in the Peruvian Amazon east of the Andes Mountains. While 17 tonnes of gold are officially extracted from the region each year, more than double that is estimated to leave ‘informally’ which also means that royalties are not being paid.

The goldrush has brought poor people from other areas to exploit the bonanza, but they are blamed for wrecking nearly 20 000 hectares of jungle.

While some of the informal miners are independent, there is growing concern that others are backed by well financed consortia.

An artisanal miner operating in the Madre de Dios area for years has said that many of the stampeders have big equipment and workings are defended with armed guards. (Source: Financial Times)

Peru’s neighbours Bolivia and Columbia which are also rich in gold reserves have sent in military to clear out illegal mining.

The lure of Inca gold seems as strong as ever

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