Peruvian president says fight against illegal mining in the Amazon is ongoing

Effects of illegal mining in the Peruvian Amazon. Screenshot from a video released by the Peruvian President.

Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra shared a video on his social media channels where he announces that authorities are going to have a permanent presence in the Amazon to guard against the development of illegal mining activities.

Earlier in the year, his administration launched Operation Mercury in the southeastern Madre de Dios department. The initiative involved the deployment of almost 1,600 people between military, police and prosecution personnel in the Amazonian region. The officers were instructed to destroy illegal mining camps, halt operations and detain gold panners.

In total, 72 camps were destroyed, 88 people were detained, 52 victims of slavery were freed, and 247 engines, 64 dredges, 76 boats and close to $19.7 million were seized.

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra meeting with authorities of the Madre de Dios department. Photo released by the office of the President.

Official information reveals that, in just 10 years, over 11,000 hectares of the Peruvian Amazon have been destroyed by illegal mining. Artisanal operations in the area have been reported since the 1970s, however, the Environmental Justice Atlas states that in recent years they have grown in size and intensity and are posing severe threats to the Bahuaja Sonene National Park and the Tambopata Natural Reserve, two particularly fragile ecosystems with one of the highest biodiversities in the area.

“[This is why] a decision has been made and it is irreversible. We didn’t just come here to run an interdiction operation and leave; we are here to stay,” Vizcarra said.

In an additional communiqué, the President also announced that next week he will issue a Supreme Decree that approves the budget requested by local authorities to be able to advance activities that prevent new foci of illegal mining and that promote regional development based on investments in tourism and agriculture.

The Andean leader also said that he expects to see some progress in the next three months when he is to meet again with the Madre de Dios authorities.