HomeNewsBriefPeru Mercury Seizure Points to Illicit Gold Mining
BRIEF

Peru Mercury Seizure Points to Illicit Gold Mining

ILLEGAL MINING / 12 FEB 2013 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

Peruvian officials have seized 198 kilos of mercury they believe was intended for use in unlicensed gold mining, a reminder of the issues that the government faces in tackling this industry, which some analysts have linked to organized crime.

Agents from the national customs agency Sunat discovered the chemicals in 10 plastic bottles stashed in concealed compartments underneath the seats of a car travelling to Puno through the Tacna region, near the borders with Bolivia and Chile, reported Andina.

The mercury, worth over $21,000, was of foreign origin and was likely destined for use in illegal gold mining in the Madre de Dios region, reported Peru21.

Officials detained five people, including two minors, who were travelling in the car.

InSight Crime Analysis

According to Peru-based firm Macroconsult, the country’s illegal mining exports were worth approximately $1.79 billion in 2011, and illegally mined gold accounted for 22 percent of Peru’s total gold exports. Mercury is used as part of the gold refining process.

Some claim that organized crime is heavily involved in the sector. Last year, security analyst Ruben Vargas claimed there was an "undeniable link" between illegal mining and drug traffickers, who, he said, used the sector to launder their profits. Vargas highlighted the Madre de Dios region and the city of Puno as hot-spots for both the drug trade and illegal mining.

However, there is scant evidence to prove these ties, and the situation is complicated by the fuzzily-defined line between illegal and informal mining. 

In Colombia -- where artisanal miners claim the government does not differentiate between traditional mining without a license and operations controlled by criminal groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and neo-paramilitary gang the Urabeños -- efforts to regulate the sector have proved difficult and controversial.  

The difficulties the Peruvian government will face in tackling this issue were underlined in March last year by mass protests that broke out in the Madre de Dios against a government decree declaring informal mining to be illegal.

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

ARGENTINA / 3 FEB 2021

As workers across Latin America struggle to stay afloat amid economic strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, loan sharks offering…

CHILE / 16 NOV 2022

The capture of Tren de Aragua members will test if Peru and Chile’s prisons can hold this dangerous gang.

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 2 JUN 2022

Illegal gold mining drives the destruction of Peru's Amazon, where fortune seekers strip forests and leave behind poisonous pools of…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…

THE ORGANIZATION

‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…