Peru Attacks Illegal Mining Ahead of Climate Talks

“Peru has sent 1,000 police into its southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining camps, just weeks before the country hosts global climate talks. Even before the officers began blasting away at miners’ makeshift shelters, the Amazon rainforest nearby looked like a war-scape, pocked with craters and littered with the trunks of amputated trees. Peru’s anti-illegal mining czar, retired army Gen. Augusto Soto, marched the men 6 miles (11 kilometers) to the wasteland known as La Pampa, where 50,000 hectares of rainforest have been obliterated in the past six years. They destroyed motors and dynamited a dozen motorcycles as they tore down dwellings that included at least one mud-flanked bordello. The miners had removed and hidden some machinery.

Peru first criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only began enforcing the law vigorously this year with serious manpower and explosives. The operations have displaced thousands of the estimated 40,000 people who authorities say moved to the jungle to mine gold. In addition to contributing to deforestation, which scientists blame for between 12 and 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the illegal alluvial gold mining contaminates the jungle with tons of mercury. Mercury is a toxin and has already contaminated the food chain, including fish, the local population’s main protein source. Peru’s environment minister says the country loses about 400 square miles (between 100,000 and 120,000 hectares) a year to deforestation. The South American country will host U.N.-sponsored climate talks that start on December 1”. – The Associated Press.

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In this November 12, 2014 photo, a column of policemen occupy a gold mining camp as part of an operation to eradicate illegal mining in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Peru’s anti-illegal mining czar, retired army Gen. Augusto Soto, marched the men to the wasteland known as La Pampa, where 50,000 hectares of rainforest have been obliterated in the past six years. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 12, 2014 photo, flames and plumes of black smoke rise over an illegal gold mining camp after authorities set fire to motorcycles and gasoline used by the miners, as part of an operation to eradicate illegal mining in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 12, 2014 photo, a charred kettle sits on top of a scorched makeshift stove in an illegal gold mining camp, set ablaze by police as part of an operation to eradicate the illegal mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 12, 2014 photo, small scale gold miners stand looking at the remains of their mining camp, scorched by authorities as part of an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 11, 2014 photo, a policeman tosses a tarp onto a bonfire at an illegal gold mining camp they occupied in an operation to eradicate illegal mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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This November 11, 2014 aerial photo, shows a deforested area dotted with blue tarps, marking the area where miners reside, and craters filled with water, caused by illegal gold mining activities, in La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 11, 2014 photo, two soldiers look at a drone, used by the Peruvian Air Force to track illegal mining activity, as they prepare for an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 11, 2014 photo, a policeman stands before an abandoned crater created by gold mining, after police shutdown activity during an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 11, 2014 photo, a policeman begins to rip apart a tarp advertising restroom and shower services for the “Hotel Hellen”, set up in an illegal gold mining camp, occupied in an operation to eradicate illegal mining in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 11, 2014 photo, a policeman takes a nap on a wooden slat, in an illegal gold mining camp after it was occupied in a police operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 12, 2014 photo, a miner looks at a motorcycle destroyed by fire in an illegal gold mining camp, set ablaze by police as part of an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 12, 2014 photo, policemen eat lunch at a makeshift base, after taking part in an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 12, 2014 photo, policemen wait to be airlifted back to their main base, after taking part in an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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In this November 12, 2014 photo, policemen use their shields to protect themselves from dust clouds stirred by a landing helicopter, after taking part in an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo by Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)

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