Post(s) tagged with "mining"
Río Huepetuhue gold mine in Peru. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
As the price of gold inches upward on international markets, a dead zone is spreading across the southern Peruvian rain forest. Tourists flying to Manu or Tambopata, the crown jewels of the country’s Amazonian parks, get a jarring view of a muddy, cratered moonscape … and then another … and another in what the country boasts is its capital of biodiversity.
While alluvial gold mining in the Amazon is probably older than the Incas, miners using motorized suction equipment, huge floating dredges and backhoes are plowing through the landscape on an unprecedented scale, leaving treeless scars visible from outer space.
Sources close to the Peruvian Environment Ministry say the government is considering declaring an environmental emergency in the region, but emergency measures passed two years ago were not enough to contain the destruction, and some observers doubt that a new decree would have any more impact.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 1, a government prosecutor in Madre de Dios, the southeastern region that is the epicenter of Peru’s illegal or “informal” placer mining, ordered the detention of Congressman Amado Romero, a member of President Ollanta Humala’s party, for environmental crimes linked to illegal mining.
As the price of gold has skyrocketed in the past few years, miners have spread out from older mining areas in Madre de Dios, staking claims and beginning operations before they have the necessary environmental permissions. This year, miners have taken over swathes of the buffer zone of the Tambopata Nature Reserve, at the heart of one of the Madre de Dios region’s prime ecotourism areas, and some have ventured into the reserve itself.
The gold rush has spread upstream, as well, where backhoe operators are dredging up small mountains of sediment along rivers that plunge through the cloud forest in the Andean foothills, one of the most biodiverse – and least studied – places on the planet.