Peru and Colombia are set to coordinate their first ever joint operation against illegal gold mining as Peru begins an all out assault against the multi-billion dollar trade.
The Peruvian high commissioner for Interdiction and Formalization of Mining, Daniel Urresti, will soon travel to Colombia to discuss the details of the operation with Colombian authorities, reported Agencia Andina.
The news comes shortly after 1,500 police troops raided the town of Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region on April 28, destroying $20 million worth of mining equipment, reported the Associated Press. According to the AP, this was the first operation of its kind since Peru passed a law banning all illegal mining in April 2014.
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Peru’s recent interdiction efforts have also included targeting machinery by reducing gasoline supplies to Madre de Dios and destroying illegal gold refineries on the coast, though this has been met with fierce and often violent resistance from miners.
InSight Crime Analysis
Both Peru and Colombia are plagued by an illegal gold mining industry that wreaks havoc on the environment and often sees miners toiling under slave-like conditions. In Colombia the trade is believed to be worth more than drug trafficking to criminal groups in at least eight provinces, while in Peru government figures say it is worth around $3 billion a year and is estimated to account for 20 percent of the country’s annual gold exports.
The industry in Peru also drives a thriving human and sex trafficking industry as people are transported to remote lawless mining areas to work in the mines or provide services to those who do.
In Colombia, authorities have identified the key groups controlling illegal mining — notably the Urabeños and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In Peru, however, corruption and blurred lines between legal and illegal gold markets make it harder to pinpoint the culprits.
The isolated and inhospitable terrain in illegal mining hotspots such as Madre de Dios in Peru and Choco in Colombia severely hampers law enforcement operations targeting the trade. In Colombia, authorities have also struggled against corruption and the power of armed groups, and so far illegal mining operations have proven resistant to attempts to tackle it. Whether Peru can overcome these obstacles in its new assault remains to be seen, but both countries can certainly benefit from sharing their experiences.