Since 2008, the Peruvian government has been battling illegal miners. Amidst the wilderness of the Amazon jungle, explosives ravage the land, illegal prostitution oppresses the local population and disease spreads unmonitored.
In 2012, the Peruvian government passed legislation to curb the illegal gold mining rampant in its Amazonian departments. However, it did not fully enforce them until now. A deadline, which expired on April 25, allowed for illegal miners to register with the government. According to the AP, the government of President Ollanta Humala has vowed to enforce this latest deadline and will move against the remaining illegal miners.
There is an estimated 40,000 illegal miners in the gold mining regions, and they affect the local environment greatly. Mining operations outside government oversight have increased deforestation and have contaminated river systems, according to the news agency. Many indigenous tribes that have made little or no contact with Western civilization reside in the area and are susceptible to various diseases.
Police have already clashed with the illegal miners, resulting in the death of one and the wounding of 50. Now that the deadline has passed, the remaining miners who have not registered with the government will face a stiff opposition by Peru's security forces if Peru's government is to remain true to its word. It is reported that illegal mining makes up 20 percent of Peru's mining exports.
"We're not backing down even one inch," said Daniel Urresti, the former army officer leading the task for President Ollanta Humala, according to the AP.
Governor of the Madre de Dios department, Jorge Aldazabal, expects violence to erupt. He has been sleeping on a mattress on the streets to protest the illegal mining ravaging his department. The law will fine all illegal miners $54,000 and impose a sentence of up to 12 years.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Peru has been somewhat successful in quelling illegal mining. The 40,000 miners mentioned earlier are the remaining miners out of an estimated 110,000 that have failed to comply with the government. Registration would mean miners reporting their environmental impact to the government as well as paying taxes.
Peru highly depends on mining, reports the Journal, and the gold mining market is worth about $3 billion. Yet, Peru's process to legalize miners proves to be too cumbersome and bureaucratic for miners who began mining because they had no alternatives for income. Although not all miners fit this description, the illegal miners have banded together, blocking highways and protesting against the Humala administration. Whether Peru's attempts prove successful, we will have to wait and see.