Colombia , Bolivia , Peru and Ecuador

Peru clamps down on illegal non-metallic mining in jungle

Bnamericas Published: Friday, July 08, 2016

Peru's government arrested 18 workers at an illegal non-metallic mining operation in a northeastern Amazon jungle natural park, underscoring the spread of unauthorized mines into new areas.

Following the raid, organized by the high commissioner's office on mining formalization, part of President Ollanta Humala's drive to formalize the sector, front-loaders and a dumptruck in the buffer zone of the Allpahuayo Mishana reserve in Loreto region were blown up with dynamite, said Carlos Rivera, the reserve's administrator.

The majority of Peru's estimated 200,000 informal and illegal miners are believed to be involved in gold mining operations in southeastern jungle areas such as Madre de Dios and Puno.

Illegal mining operations clear large areas of tropical rainforest to extract rock and sand for the construction industry, Rivera told state news agency Andina.

The 57,667ha Allpahuayo Mishana reserve is a unique eco-system which is home to 475 rare bird and 143 reptile species, 500 species of trees and 1,900 of flora, and endangered primates such as the yellow-handed Titi monkey and Equatorial Saki monkey, according to NGO ParksWatch.

Faced with the spread of illegal mining operations across common borders, the Andean Community trade bloc, made up of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia, held a meeting to coordinate joint actions.

Officials from the mining, environment, defense and foreign ministries of the four member countries met to discuss an operating plan, the Andean Community said in a statement.

The plan aims to improve monitoring of minerals exports and imports, transport, processing and trading, in addition to any materials related to illegal mining operations including machinery, raw materials and fuel, according to the statement.

"The operating plan, which is expected to be approved by the end of July, will include coordinated actions to eradicate illegal mining in border areas by the respective entities of the countries in the Andean Community," the organization said. "Also planned is an evaluation of the environmental dimension caused by this phenomenon in affected border eco-systems; the exchange of information and good practices in socio-economic development, including efforts by the four countries to formalize small-scale informal operators."

Since taking office in July 2011, Humala has sought to formalize the country's informal miners and set up military bases and units in a bid to curb the flow of fuel, chemicals and machinery to illegal mining operations in Amazon jungle areas such as Madre de Dios, to curb exports of illegally produced gold and to destroy unauthorized river dredges and gold mills.

Humala, who is scheduled to step down July 28, will be succeeded by former banker and cabinet chief Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski, who has pledged to continue the formalization effort by providing informal miners with loans and training.

Illegal and informal miners, who generate an estimated US$3bn in annual revenue, produced about 20% of Peru's 145t of gold output in 2015, according to the energy and mines ministry (MEM). Tax authority Sunat has impounded at least 2t of illegally produced gold since 2011.

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