Illegal gold mining is a multi-pronged mess, spawning social, environmental, and economic unrest. As mentioned in part two of the Peruvian Amazon Interoceanic Highway posts, Peru sees its fair share of this problem.
The easier it gets to travel to the lowlands, the easier it gets for highlanders to venture down to take on whatever work they can – even if they must destroy their own land in the process – to seek a better living.
Natl Govt looks to ban illegal mining
Environment Minister Antonio Brack said last month that the government will seek to ban unregulated mining for gold in the country’s southeastern rainforest, reports Bloomberg.
Mining operations require cutting down stretches of rainforest. Further, unregulated gold mining pollutes 5 million hectares (12 million acres) of the Amazon River basin, he said, in the Madre de Dios (Mother of God) region.
The Ministry is thus looking to reach an agreement with national and regional governments to stop the environmental destruction.
“Informal mining, which doesn’t meet minimal environmental standards, is the country’s biggest social and ecological problem,” Brack said.
“These operations, which are spreading across the Andes and the Amazon, have an enormous impact on biodiversity and native communities.”
Mercury and the environment
Mercury is used to separate gold ore from rock in the refining process.
Alluvial mining, or dredging for gold along river banks, is the norm in these lowlands. It is extensively harmful to the environment and is deadly for human and nonhuman animals alike.
About 32 tons of mercury are dumped into the rainforest’s rivers annually by miners. The pollution has a reach of 500 km. (300 mi.) – all the way into Brazil.