Peru’s illegal mining brings in over $3 billion a year: authorities

Illegal mining in Peru brings in more than $3 billion a year to the nation's economy, the country’s special commissioner to combat such crime, Enrique Alvarez, told Chinese news agency Xinhua.

The official, recently appointed by President Ollanta Humala, said mineral extraction carried out by small groups that do not have any sort of permits, generates about 20 related and equally illegal transactions, including money laundering, equipment smuggling, drug trafficking and human trafficking for prostitution, among other kinds of organized crime.

SEE ALSO: Peru’s illegal mining exports problem worse than drug trafficking: report

Peru has been working hard to reduce the amount of illegal miners operating —mostly— in the gold-rich areas of Madre de Dios, Puno and Cusco.

Last year it launched a program to incorporate these miners into the system by April 2014. Minister of Energy and Mines Jorge Merino justified the measure saying Peru had reached a point of "no return" in the fight against illegal mining. He added his government aimed to end this practice that “harms people’s health, the environment and the economy.”

"Informal mining is a problem that has social connotations. There are about 100,000 informal miners in Peru and another 400,000 compatriots who depend on this activity. We must first understand the problem [and then find a] solution, which it is not easy,” he said in an official statement (in Spanish).

And this week, Peruvian Foreign Relations Minister, Eda Rivas, signed an agreement with her Colombian counterpart, Maria Holguin, to work together fighting illegal gold mining, a practice that has ravaged parts of the Amazon rainforest: 18,000 hectares to be more precise, based on data provided by Peru’s Ministry of Environment.

Illegal gold mining in the South American nation has increased fivefold in the last six years and is estimated to provide 100,000 direct jobs in the country.

Image: Illegal gold mining along the Madre de Dios River. By Ryan M. Bolton/