HomeNewsBriefPeru Running Out of Ideas to Stop Illegal Mining in Madre de Dios
BRIEF

Peru Running Out of Ideas to Stop Illegal Mining in Madre de Dios

GENDER AND CRIME / 11 MAR 2019 BY CAMILO CARRANZA EN

Authorities in Peru launched a large-scale operation aimed at driving out illegal gold mining and other illicit activities in the Madre de Dios region, where similar, previous operations have had little lasting effects.

A force of some 1,800 police and military officers were sent to Madre de Dios -- a region of Amazon rainforest bordering Brazil and Bolivia -- to take part in Operation Mercurio 2019, El Comercio reported.

The operation seeks to remove more than 5,000 illegal miners and evict thousands of merchants that capitalize on other criminal activities in the area, such as sex trafficking. Already 40 women considered to be trafficking victims have been rescued, according to a local news report. Authorities have also dismantled about 30 illegal mining camps in the area during the first week of the operation.

The second phase of the operation will last 180 days, during which three military bases will be installed. Each base will staff 100 soldiers from the army's newly created Amazon Protection Brigade, as well as 50 police officers. The first base has been set up in the zone of "La Pampa," government officials said in a news release on March 5.

SEE ALSO: Illegal Mining Coverage

The government of Peru has dedicated $60 million dollars to the operation, which also plans to formalize and reintegrate illegal miners.

InSight Crime Analysis

Peru’s recent assault on illegal gold mining in Madre De Dios is just the latest in a string of similar operations that have failed to stop the practice’s expansion.

In 2014, police raided the town of Huepetuhe, destroying $20 million worth of mining equipment. Then in 2017, officers destroyed 83 mining camps in an operation also dubbed Mercurio.

Yet from to 2009 to 2017, the Madre Dios region saw more than 64,000 hectares of Amazon forest destroyed by illegal mining and logging. In 2018, deforestation from wildcat gold mining, which strips the land and leaves behind pools of mercury, peaked at nearly 10,000 hectares.

SEE ALSO: After Massive Police Op, What’s Next in Fight Against Illegal Gold?

Stopping the illegal gold trade in Peru has proven to be nearly impossible. The gold ore is easily bought and sold by a network of middlemen, known as “acopiadores," who also provide false receipts, allowing large-scale buyers and export companies to buy the ore, which is then refined abroad.

Six years ago, Peru’s illegal gold trade was estimated to be worth more than $3 billion, and it has likely only grown since then.

Illegal gold mining also brings with it a number of other criminal activities, such as forced labor. The mining sites have also long been hotbeds for human trafficking and prostitution.

Peru’s government has tried to toughen illegal mining laws, declaring it an organized crime activity, and it has attempted to formalize the industry, by offering incentives to illegal miners to register with the government.

Mostly, though, it has tried to drive out illegal miners through police and military operations, of which “Mercurio 2019” is the latest example. But it’s unlikely that the miners will stay away for long.

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

BRAZIL / 19 MAY 2021

Sporadic clashes between illegal miners and Indigenous communities are not uncommon in northern Brazil but recent shootouts drive a new…

JUDICIAL REFORM / 2 JUL 2014

Peru has implemented a new law to fight organized crime, providing law enforcement with better investigation tools amidst an increase…

HUMAN TRAFFICKING / 25 JUL 2011

Mexico's government has claimed that more than 1,000 people were arrested in an operation against human trafficking in Ciudad Juarez,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…