Peru spends millions in losing fight against illegal mining

Peru’s government has spent millions of dollars on raids of illegal miners as the industry has continued its advance into protected areas of the Amazon jungle. The government’s strategy revolves around raids on illegal mining camps as well as convincing informal miners to register their businesses. Authorities conducted 62 raids in 2015 and five so far in 2016. The government uses helicopters and thousands of police officers and military to conduct each raid on illegal mining towns which sometimes have transitory populations numbering in the thousands. Agents blow up the miners’ equipment and chemical inputs, but miners are seldom arrested. Each raid costs the government $300,000. Peru’s government has spent over $20 million in its fight against illegal mining operations since 2015. In addition to the government expenditure, the raids have cost the country tens of millions of dollars in heavy machinery. Police destroyed an estimated $14 million in equipment just in the five raids of 2016. Despite the energy and investment, illegal mining camps are increasingly encroaching on Peru’s national parks and forests in Madre de Dios, Loreto, Huanuco, Amazonas, Puno and more.

Illegal mining threatens to destroy Peru's Amazon

New satellite images have been released showing the impacts of illegal gold mining in parts of the Peruvian Amazon, affecting an area the size of two and a half football fields. The effects of deforestation in the region of La Pamapa, in the state of Madre de Dios (Mother of God) are the result of the illegal exploitation of minerals, according to analysts at the non-profit Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP).

The environmental group examined aerial photographs that were taken in July of 2015 and compared them to photographs from Aug. of 2014, which showed that 750 hectares of forest have disappeared in only a year. Illegal mining in the Amazon rainforest is a lucrative industry and growing problem for the whole region. Between 25,000 and 30,000 people are believed to be linked to the exploitation of resources in the state of Madre de Dios alone, according to the state's Ministry of Environment. Another hot spot for illegal mining is near the Tambopata National Reserve, which is recognized worldwide as one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. Mining activity has been reported less than 6 kilometers from the reserve, putting the area under threat of deforestation. Peruvian officials are concerned that the illegal exploitation of resources will eventually reach the Tambopata National Reserve itself, according to Pedro Gamboa, head of the National Service of Protected Areas of Peru.

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