Two dead during eviction of illegal miners in northern Peru

Two people were killed during a violent eviction of about 500 illegal gold miners in northern Peru, reports El Comercio (in Spanish).

The newspaper reports some 500 miners armed with stones and explosives clashed with police in incidents at La Libertad, about 300 km south of the gold-rich Cajamarca region. Locals have been protesting for days against the government’s decision to formalize all artisanal and small-scale miners by April 2014.

Illegal gold production 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.

According to Peru’s Ministry of Environment, the activity has destroyed 18,000 hectares of Amazon so far.

Last year, Minister of Energy and Mines Jorge Merino, said in a press release that Peru had reached a point of "no return" in the fight against illegal mining and that the government is working hard 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 the statement.

Merino added Peru is one of the first countries in Latin America to address the problem of illegal mining directly, through a gradual process that aims to incorporate informal miners into the system. “Illegal is not the same [as] informal,” he said, adding that the latter are supported by the government and continue working for up to two years until their formal incorporation has been completed.