MAC: Mines and Communities

Military and gold miners clashed in Madre de Dios, Peru

Published by MAC on 2011-03-08
Source: Reuters, AFP, PlanetArk

Police and gold miners clashed last week in Peru's Madre de Dios region, resulting in the deaths of several miners (some sources say 4 died, and others put the toll at 2 or 1), with 10 people injured. Around 1,000 police and army personnel were taking part in an operation to destroy river-based gold dredges.

The government's intervention seems poorly thought through, because on the one hand it is trying to end illegal mining, but on the other hand it continues to hand out mining concessions in the Amazon. In addition, it seems polemic that the objective of the military intervention focuses on the dredgers (that only work on the rivers) when the principal reason to justify the destruction of the dredgers is deforestation; the environmental impact of the dredgers is significant, but that does not include deforestation.

The growing militarization of mining areas does not appear to the solution to the problem of illegal gold extraction and its health and environmental consequences.

This situation in Madre de Dios was easy to predict. In fact, in 2008 IPS correspondent Milagros Salazar warned: "The conflicts surrounding extractive industries in Peru could shift from the mountains to the jungles due to the rising number of concessions granted for the Amazonian regions of San Martín, Madre de Dios and Amazonas, and which are being strongly opposed by the local indigenous communities". See: Hostage-taking, strikes, clashes and mining companies going into the Amazon

This phenomenon (large convoys of armed police being sent to isolated areas were gold is being extracted on small-scale) is going on in Bolivia, Colombia and other countries in Latin America. See:

Bolivia & Colombia deploy troops to curb illegal gold mining

Small-Scale Miners Fight Large-Scale Interests in Southern Amazon, Ecuador

If gold hits 1500 U$-oz, how many  troops will governments mobilize to stop the damaging effects of mining activities? At what cost? Risking how many human lives?

For previous postings on the Peruvian government's tragic interventions: Six workers killed in protests.



Peru police clash with wildcat miners, one dead


2 March 2011

LIMA - A clash between Peruvian police and wildcat gold miners resulted in the death of one miner and the wounding of 14 others on Tuesday at a protest against the army's seizure of illegal dredges in the Amazon basin, a witness said.


Peruvian military destroy mining dredges on Madre de Dios

Peruvian military destroy mining dredges on Madre de Dios.

It was the latest violent conflict over natural resources to flare up during President Alan Garcia's term in Peru, a leading global gold exporter. Persistent social conflicts have become a central issue in Peru's April presidential election, when Garcia cannot run for a second term.

Juan Rojas, a local radio journalist in Madre de Dios, a remote region where the clash occurred, said some of the wounded suffered bullet wounds. Local media also reported one death and about 10 wounded. Police provided no comment.

Peru is the world's No. 6 gold producer and about 10 percent of its gold comes from Madre de Dios. Around 10,000 people in the region are thought to earn a living from illegal mining.

Earlier this month, Peru's armed forces launched an unprecedented campaign to halt illegal mining in the area, near Peru's border with Brazil and Bolivia.

Around 1,000 police and infantrymen are taking part in an operation to destroy wildcat mining equipment.

Social conflict over natural resources is already a central theme in the presidential race as a third of Peruvians live in poverty and many have been left out of a commodities boom that fueled a past decade of strong economic growth.

Six people were killed in April 2010 when police clashed with wildcat miners, and days later farmers blocked roads to halt a mine planned by a company with Mexican roots.

Thirty people died in a violent conflict over proposed oil drilling on indigenous lands in June 2009, which prompted Garcia to fire his entire cabinet.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Peru cracks down on illegal gold miners in Amazon


20 February 2011

PUERTO MALDONADO, Peru - Peruvian security forces launched a massive operation this weekend to destroy illegal gold mining equipment that is damaging fragile Amazonian habitats.

Nearly 1,000 military troops and police officers, assisted by helicopters and motor boats, took part in the first day of the operation that began on Saturday and is due to last a month.

They seized 13 river dredgers pumping silt up from the riverbed and sunk, burnt or otherwise destroyed seven, the defense ministry said Sunday.

"These are no small cottage industries," Defense Minister Jaime Thorne said, pointing to destroyed Chinese-made dredgers that cost about $250,000 each.

The operation aims to track down and destroy some 300 large pieces of mining equipment, including 200 dredgers, along 300 kilometers (190 miles) of the Inambari River in the southeastern Puerto Maldonado region.

Illegal mining accounts for nearly a quarter of gold production in Peru, the world's fifth-largest producer of the yellow metal.

Peru's environment ministry has warned that illegal gold mining could spark an ecological disaster in the Amazon due to deforestation, the carving up of the riverbed and mercury contamination.

"We cannot afford to let rivers get destroyed, with fish subjected to three times the amount of mercury tolerated internationally," Environment Minister Antonio Brack said.

There is local opposition but no clashes were reported on the first day of the massive military operation.

Peru Proposes Law To Ground Wildcat Mining Tools

By Caroline Stauffer and Dante Alva


7 March 2011

Peru - Days after a clash between wildcat miners and police left two dead in eastern Peru, the country's Environment Minister has proposed a law banning dredging equipment used to extract gold from the Amazon river basin.

The law proposed on Thursday aiming "to protect the environment and public health" in Amazonia will likely be debated in Congress next week. It is the latest phase of an assault on illegal mining launched just months before President Alan Garcia's term ends.

Earlier this month, the government sent 1,000 police and infantrymen to the Madre de Dios region, where around 10,000 people are part of an enormous, unregistered mining industry that has turned one of the world's most biologically diverse places into a mercury infused construction zone.

The troops began destroying boats and mining equipment, leading to a mass protest that escalated into violence on Tuesday, leaving two dead and more than 30 injured, some with bullet wounds.

The government forces stopped destroying equipment after a dialogue with protesters yielded an agreement to work to formalize the mining sector, according to local media.

But if passed, the proposed law would give the government broad power to ground mining equipment in the region.

Peru is the world's No. 6 gold producer and about 10 percent of its gold comes from Madre de Dios, near the border with Bolivia and Brazil.

Social conflict over natural resources has become a central theme in Peru's April 10 presidential race as a third of Peruvians live in poverty and many have been left out of a commodities boom that fueled a past decade of strong economic growth. Garcia is not eligible to run.

(Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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