US grants Peru $1m for Amazon clean-up due to illegal mining legacy

US grants Peru $1m for Amazon clean-up due to illegal mining legacy

This is what the Peruvian jungle looks like after years of illegal gold mining. (Image from archives)

The U.S. Department of State awarded US$1 million to the Blacksmith Institute to work with Peru’s Ministry of Environment (Minam) at reducing the use of mercury and design remediation plans in the Amazon region, highly damaged by illegal mining.

According to BNAmericas (subs. required), work will be focused on southern Peru, particularly around the gold-rich Madre de Dios and Puno areas.

The U.S. Ambassador to Peru, Brian Nichols, said his government believes it is crucial to support the Peruvian government strategy to combat illegal mining and reduce mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

The South American nation first criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only last year began enforcing the law vigorously, including the use of military forces and explosives. These operations have displaced thousands of the estimated 40,000 people who authorities say moved to the jungle to mine gold.

Besides contributing to deforestation, the illegal extraction of gold has contaminated the jungle with tons of mercury, a toxin that has already contaminated the food chain, including fish, the local population's main protein source.

Peru is the world's sixth largest gold producer, but an estimated 20% of its annual production is of unknown origin.