HomeNewsAnalysisIllegal Mining Crackdown May Push Peru’s Former Miners to Coca, Timber
ANALYSIS

Illegal Mining Crackdown May Push Peru’s Former Miners to Coca, Timber

COCAINE / 18 JUN 2019 BY YURI NEVES EN

Authorities in Peru say they have successfully driven illegal gold mining out of the Amazon, but will other illegal economies take its place?

Early this year, Peruvian authorities carried out a massive operation to remove some 5,000 illegal gold miners from an area known as La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region.

The miners are now gone, but Madre de Dios’ governor calculates that 80 percent of the businesses in La Pampa had ties to gold mining and that up to 40,000 people in the region directly or indirectly depended on the mines for their livelihoods, the Miami Herald reported.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles

Locals say violent robberies have increased since the military wiped out the illegal mining site. A spate of robberies targeting tourist buses and nature lodges in Madre de Dios -- one of the Amazon’s most biodiverse corners -- has led to the cancelling of nearly half of the planned tours to the region this year.

InSight Crime Analysis

As an increasing number of Peru’s illegal miners become desperate for work, they could be enticed by other illicit activities -- including violent crime, coca cultivation and illegal logging.

Peru’s government has promised some $160 million in funding to formalize and reintegrate illegal miners, as well as bring new businesses to La Pampa, a 20-kilometer stretch of highway full of bars and other businesses that long catered to them. But only $64 million has been approved, and little of it has gone to La Pampa.

Even if the government is able to bring new business to La Pampa, there is still the question of what happens to the thousands of illegal miners now out of work.

SEE ALSO: High-Profile Arrests Won’t Stem Cocaine Production in Peru’s VRAEM

The process of integrating and legalizing the illegal miners has also proven difficult. Few have been granted mining licenses, and incentives to register with the government have largely failed in the past, as illegal miners fear being taxed.

Miners in La Pampa were able to earn $100 to $200 in a 24-hour shift, the equivalent of a month’s wages in the region.

Legal work will not bring anything close to those wages, which means miners may be enticed by other illegal activities common in the region. A similar dynamic was seen in Peru recently when a drop in coffee prices led farmers to find work in coca plantations, where they could earn higher wages.

What’s more, one of the most important coca growing areas in Peru sits close to La Pampa. The Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley region, known as the VRAEM, has seen a boom in coca cultivation in recent yers. In 2017, the 21,646 hectares of coca in the river valley accounted for nearly half of the nation’s total crop, according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Illegal timber logging is also big business in the Madre de Dios region, and could increase with the influx of former miners. Peru has attempted to combat the trade, but it is still a thriving business, accounting for much of the deforestation in the Amazon alongside illegal mining.

The dismantling of illegal gold mining in La Pampa is certainly a move in the right direction, but a long-term investment and security plan in Madre de Dios is needed.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

GOLD / 24 DEC 2018

Dozens of massacres and a sprawling organized crime structure are behind a recent alliance between the governments of Venezuela and…

DRUG POLICY / 28 MAR 2012

With its new four-year anti-drug strategy, Peru is moving towards a less tolerant position on coca, ramping up eradication targets…

GOLD / 13 FEB 2014

Authorities in Peru suspect half of all the country's gold exporters have connections to illegal gold mining, demonstrating just how…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Dirty Money and Tren de Aragua

29 OCT 2021

InSight Crime was delighted to support investigative reporting in the Americas through a workshop with our friends at Connectas, a non-profit journalism initiative that facilitates collaboration…