Illegal gold mining in Peru – once restricted to the southern states – is now spreading across new territory in the northern and central Peruvian Amazon. In a report released earlier this month, Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) revealed three new “frontiers” of gold mining in the departments of Amazonas and Huánuco – regions that boast exceptional biological and cultural diversity.
Across the frontiers, MAAP detected 32 hectares of mining deforestation – an area equivalent to about 42 soccer fields. These mining scars are fresh, and relatively small, indicating that a larger-scale deforestation event can still be prevented.
“Deforestation in these cases is still in its early stages, so there is still time to avoid larger-scale damage, as in the case of [the southern region of] Madre de Dios,” the report states.
The Department of Madre de Dios has long been subject to illegal gold mining, where an estimated 30,000 artisanal miners operate illicitly. The outfall from mining gained international visibility earlier this year when the government declared a state of emergency for the region after detecting dangerous levels of mercury – used to extract gold from sediment – within local communities. The region’s forests, rivers, and biodiversity have also paid a price.
According to MAAP’s latest report, gold mining activity now appears to be contributing to deforestation in two new regions of the country: Amazonas and Huánuco. These incursions are the first of their kind in northern and central Peru.
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