Peru: unauthorized mining is destroying Madre de Dios rainforest

Isabel Guerra

The President of Madre de Dios region, Santos Kaway, declared to local media that his office is absolutely unable to control the thousands of people that are damaging or destroying the region’s environment as a side effect of their searching for gold.

“I say it openly: the problem is so big that controlling it is absolutely out of our hands now. Even if we received a bigger budget, this problem is already out of our reach” Kaway remarked.

According to some reports printed recently by El Comercio, this illegal mining activity has already destroyed 150,000 hectares of rainforests, and has also brought social consequences such as an increase in prostitution, alcoholism, informal commerce and children’s explotation, due to the great economical implications of unauthorized mining.

The biggest issue, however, is the impact of this activity on the environment, since some estimations indicate that unauthorized mining uses 70 tonnes of mercury per year.

This toxic metal is commonly used to separate gold from  another elements and ends up contaminating severely the rivers and killing the precious local flora and fauna.

The Regional Directorate of Energy and Mines of Madre de Dios has admitted that only 16 out of 2,800 mining companies operating in the region are legally registered, which explains the wide range of the contamination with mercury and adds up to the already huge environmental problem.

Regarding to this, Carlos Aranda, President of the Environmental Affairs of the National Mining Society, considers that the only way to put a stop to this situation is looking for a solution that considers the social, economical and environmental implyies of the problem.

“Traces of mercury have already been found in the rivers that cross our borders with Brazil. This fact could become an issue for our diplomatic relations with that country” he said.

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