Since 2000, illegal mining has experienced an accelerated expansion in the Peruvian Amazon, as a result of the price of gold, which in August 2020 exceeded USD 2,000 per ounce, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only in Madre de Dios, this has already caused the deforestation of more than 100,000 hectares of forests during the last three decades, in addition to other serious impacts on the environment and public health such as the contamination of rivers – and of the fish consumed by people – with mercury.
Currently, the advance of illegal mining in the Amazon threatens even the Natural Protected Areas (ANP). Pedro Solano, a renowned specialist in environmental issues, points out that “too much money is spent in carrying out interventions, blowing up machinery and removing illegal miners from the Tambopata Reserve. But the consequences consist in that all those miners go (for example) to Loreto and now they are doing the same in the Alto Nanay Regional Conservation Area and in a large part of the Amazon ”.
Likewise, it argues that to stop illegal mining a lot of operational intelligence is required by the National Police of Peru and the Prosecutor’s Office, in order to design a comprehensive and differentiated strategy to reduce the cases of this environmental crime, because “if you simply took them out and you did not put anyone in jail, what you are saying to the (illegal) miner is ‘don’t do it here’, but the crime has not been punished. That deserves a review, ”he said.
For his part, César Ipenza, an expert in Environmental Law, highlighted that this is the second environmental crime with the highest incidence in the country, after illegal logging, and that, in addition to protected areas, it affects the lands of indigenous communities, and fundamental ecosystems for the development of various economic activities.
“In the midst of the pandemic, illegality has not stopped in the Amazon, in the last 2020 there have been more than 2,000 interventions against environmental crimes, 60% of them for illegal mining. Let us also remember that it is linked to other criminal phenomena such as human trafficking, hit men, money laundering and drug trafficking, which shows the magnitude of the damage to the common good of this crime, ”Ipenza said.
In this sense, it is necessary to strengthen the advances of instruments such as the Strategy on Illegal Mining in Protected Natural Areas, which has made it possible to eradicate or reduce illegal mining in part of the affected ANPs. Thus, according to USAID’s Prevenir Project, this strategy should be updated with a preventive approach, in which prediction, early warning and timely response capabilities are developed.
On the other hand, it is necessary to provide legal operators with the instruments and resources necessary to carry out their supervisory and sanctioning work for the crime of illegal mining, which implies investments in infrastructure and capacity building.
In order to raise awareness to combat illegal mining, as well as wildlife trafficking and illegal logging, #Consequences is promoted, an initiative that seeks to change this problem and that we know the impacts that these environmental crimes generate in our lives. This affects not only people who live in Loreto, Ucayali, Madre de Dios or Lima, but also all those who live in other regions. The important thing is that we have to know how to prevent them and deal with them ”, commented Pedro Solano, one of the promoters of the campaign, who, in that sense, invited everyone to join through social networks www.facebook.com/consequences.pe Y www.instagram.com/consequences.pe.
It should be noted that this campaign is promoted by USAID’s Prevenir Project, together with various allies such as the Ministry of the Environment (MINAM), SERNANP, OSINFOR, SERFOR, as well as organizations such as the Peruvian Environmental Law Society (SPDA), Conservation x Labs , PROFONANPE, as well as a growing list of private companies such as Lima Airport Partners and Aeropuertos Andinos del Perú, among others.