Peruvian Government Destroys Mining Equipment
April 25, 2014
In a show of strength and resolve, the Peruvian government dynamited over $20 million worth of heavy machinery that was being used in illegal gold mining operations. The raid by 1,500 police and military troops took place in the southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios and is the first such action since a nationwide ban on illegal mining went into effect on April 19th.
Mining machinery that was destroyed during the operation included backhoes, generators and water pumps. The raid occurred on Monday in the Huepetuhe district, a popular mining area that had been in use since the 1980's. The operation led to several nearby buildings being damaged from fires caused by the explosions although no injuries were reported.
"We are using specially designed methods and strategies to avoid violence," Daniel Urresti told the Associated Press (AP) in an interview. Urresti is a former army general who ran the operation.
According to officials, the Madre de Dios state has an estimated 40,000 illegal miners who have ravaged forests and poisoned rivers by using tons of mercury to bind the gold flecks they dig up. Illegal mining accounts for roughly 20% of Peru's gold exports with most miners being migrants from the Andean highlands.
The mining equipment destroyed in the raid included 15 backhoes, 45 big motors and a number of generators.
While the miners are bearing the brunt of the police actions, government officials are careful to point out that the illegal operations are being orchestrated from a small group of people that are exploiting the labor.
"The people who are illegal are the 50 people who are financing all this, not the day laborers who do all the hard work under dangerous conditions and are poisoned with the mercury," Urresti told the AP.