Peru's government is targeting the illegal gold trade by declaring illegal mining an organized crime activity while launching a new formalization program for miners, in a carrot and stick strategy that history suggests will be difficult to implement.
Justice and Human Rights Minister Marisol Pérez Tello has told Peruvian press that illegal mining, along with related activities including the trafficking of equipment and substances used in mining and the financing of illegal mining, are to be incorporated into the country's Organized Crime Law, reported El Peruano.
The decision will mean authorities can now investigate a case while the accused is detained for up to 36 months and grants extra powers to investigators such as the use of undercover agents.
In addition, Energy and Mines Minister Gonzalo Tamayo announced the launch of a new plan for the formalization of miners.
The government's aim is to formalize half of the estimated 100,000-120,000 illegal miners in the country, reported El Comercio. The new plan will seek to simplify the procedures required to formalize and incentivize miners by offering credit and facilitating the granting of mining titles.
According to the minister, the government will differentiate between illegal miners and informal miners who can be brought into the legal economy by determining which operate in areas where mining is prohibited and which just lack proper authorization and permits.
InSight Crime Analysis
Disentangling informal and illegal mining is one of the greatest challenges governments such as Peru's face when it comes to tackling the illegal mining boom that has ravaged parts of Latin America in recent years.
Indiscriminate operations that criminalize all mining that is not legal puts the livelihoods of thousands of people and the economic future of mining territories at risk. However, the infiltration and co-optation of informal mining by criminal networks makes drawing a neat line between the criminal and the informal extremely difficult.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Illegal Mining
Tackling the issue from both sides -- cracking down on the illegal while seeking to formalize the informal -- is a strategy countries impacted by illegal mining are now settling on as the best way to address this situation.
However, such attempts are not new for Peru, and their prior record is not good. The previous formalization campaign saw approximately 70,000 miners sign up to be integrated into the legal mining industry. However, several years later, only 161 mining operations representing approximately 3,000 people have completed the process, El Peruano cited Tamayo as saying.