Peru Begins Blowing Up Mining Equipment

June 13, 2014

 

The government of Peru has taken the gloves off in its ongoing fight with illegal mining activity. Having tried legal routes, the government is now simply taking away illegal miners' ability to work by dynamiting their equipment.

 

Crisologo Quispe was operating a gold mine in the Peruvian jungle bordering the Madre de Dios region until police used dynamite to blow up $350,000 loaders at a nearby mining site that was determined to be illegal. After the incident Quispe fired 17 workers and moved what was left of mining machinery to an undisclosed location for fear the police would destroy more.

 

Although Quispe is technically illegal, he has applied for a license to operate legally, he says the raids by police rarely differentiate and because of this he is halting his operations until the situation clears up.

 

"I'm not operating for safety reasons until things become clearer," Quispe recently told Bloomberg News. "I'm not illegal but I'm worried what's happening to the illegal ones could happen to me. The raids don't differentiate".

 

Quispe owns one of approximately 58,000 small mining operations in Peru that the government says have signed up for a process to operate legally and abide by governmental, labor and tax legislation. A current police crackdown on 30,000 mines has led to a slump in gold exports from South America since the legal mines can't keep up with demand by themselves.

 

Those that have applied for a legal mining license have technically been granted amnesty to continue operating but many say police don't always recognize this law.

 

At stake are approximately 550,000 people who work in informal mine tunnels and in the mountains and mining pits in the jungle. Almost all of these mines are not inspected by safety officials and the chance of a disaster is always possible.

 

In comparison, the formal and legal mining industry in Peru only employs 182,000 workers. Rising exports of copper and gold have helped Peru become South America's fastest growing economy over the last ten years, expanding an average of 6.3 percent a year.