Peru congressional committee passes bill on illegal mining

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Peruvian congressional committee approved a bill aimed at combating the country's illegal mining sector.

The energy and mines committee late Wednesday passed a bill that will add a regulatory framework for legislative decree 1103, which establishes mechanisms to monitor the distribution and sale of fuel and chemicals used in illegal gold mining operations in the southeastern Amazon jungle, said committee chair Agustín Molina.

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Congress will vote on the bill in two weeks' time, Molina said. The bill gives government officials the power to review documentation and set fuel quotas for small-scale informal miners who operate within the law, he added.

The government, which seeks to formalize the country's estimated 100,000 informal miners, on Thursday opened a mining registry office in central Huánuco region, the 10th in the country, the energy and mines ministry (MEM) said.

The registry office, known as a ventanilla única or one-stop-shop, will help more than 500 informal Huánuco miners who have applied to formalize their concessions, said regional ministry official Hernán Valdivia.

"This confirms the intention to avoid social conflicts and foment economic activities with social and environmental responsibility," Valdivia said in the statement.

The government last month reached an agreement with informal miners who staged a week-long nationwide protest in 10 of the country's 24 regions, pledging to help speed up and simplify the formalization process. The protests left at least two dead and 40 injured.

Since taking office in July 2011, President Ollanta Humala has set out to formalize the country's informal miners, control the flow of fuel, chemicals and machinery to illegal mining operations in the Amazon jungle and curb exports of illegally produced gold and destroy unauthorized river dredgers and gold mills.

Informal and illegal miners, which accounted for about 12% of Peru's 161t of gold output in 2012, generate about US$3bn in annual revenue, according to the energy and mines ministry.

The government to date has closed 13 illegal gold mills, seized 2t of illegal gold shipments, put four exporters on trial and started investigations into 37 other firms, said Daniel Urresti, high commissioner for mining formalization.

US foreign aid agency USAID plans to set up a research center to help efforts aimed at eradicating illegal mines in Madre de Dios region, home to the country's largest illicit mining operations, Urresti told television station Canal N.