Unit recently the River Santiago was considered a healthy system but new reports suggest that it is contaminated due to illegal gold mining
02-05-2016 Peru this Week
Reports that have been released have caused alarm as 15 to 20 men were caught illegally mining for gold in the River Santiago located the region of Amazonas, member from the NGO Law, Environment and Natural Resources (DAR) made the discovery while making their way up steam.
One of the consultants that was there, Esteban Valle Riestra stated to the Guardian “In the Amazon gold extraction is only known about in the Madre de Dios and Puno regions in the south of the country, the shift to the north, where in the Santiago basin it started within the last three years, is something new.”
The team was led by a member of the Awajún community member Edgar Montenegro Dávila, Edgar´s brother Edwin is currently the president of regional indigenous organization, ORPIAN-P. Edwin raised concerns when miners torn down trees and contaminated the rivers with mercury all signs of illegal gold mining. Until recently this was healthy river system and was known as the last frontier for illegal mining.
The area is home to over 70,000 Awajúns and Wampís, indigenous to the area and they all depend on the ecosystem for their survival, Montenegro expressed this concern by saying “why don’t we want mining in this region? One, because the indigenous population don’t have running water. Our way of washing is using the river, the streams, and we drink from them too. That’s why it’s important that we can’t allow mining. [The miners] extract gold from the river, they put in the mercury, that’s what the fish drink, and then that’s what we could eat. That’s why there’s so much concern about it. In addition, they’re taking out trees, they’re chopping them down. The biological diversity, flora and fauna. . . All disappearing.”
However, desperation and poverty have led some members of the indigenous community to work with the miners. Montenegro expressed sadness stating he understands that work is important but the environment should be protected at all costs.
ORPIAN-P have made request to the government to send troops in to remove the miners by force, this is not the first time it has happened. Last year through complaints the Peruvian forced out miners and destroyed 14 illegal operations however, the more miners continue to destroy the rainforest.
Illegal mining poses a great threat to the Peruvian environment and to those that call the rainforest their home, reports of exploration and abuse is also of great concern. Alarms have been raised from locals and the international community’s and it is now time for the Peruvian government to act.