Peru's Illegal Gold

In a surprise raid, about 1,500 police and troops dynamited $20 million worth of heavy machinery as Peru's government dialed up a crackdown on illegal gold mining that has badly scarred the ecologically rich southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios.Madre de Dios state has an estimated 40,000 illegal miners, most centered near the commercially vital Interoceanic Highway that links the Pacific Ocean with Brazil.

They use tons of mercury to bind the gold flecks they dig up, and have ravaged forests and poisoned rivers in a bio-diverse region that is also home to tribes living in voluntary isolation. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. By cracking down, the government is toying with a powder keg, some Peruvians fear.


A backhoe used for illegal mining burns after being destroyed by authorites in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s thousands of illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  

A backhoe used for illegal mining burns after being destroyed by authorites in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s thousands of illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

 

Riot police stand guard at an illegal mining operation in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Some 1,500 soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s thousands of illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  

Riot police stand guard at an illegal mining operation in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Some 1,500 soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s thousands of illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

 


In this Wednesday, April 30, 2014 photo, a woman cries in front of police after authorities destroyed her canoe's engine, which partially destroyed her boat, for allegedly transporting machinery used by illegal gold miners at the Punkiri dock in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban on illegal mining took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  

In this Wednesday, April 30, 2014 photo, a woman cries in front of police after authorities destroyed her canoe's engine, which partially destroyed her boat, for allegedly transporting machinery used by illegal gold miners at the Punkiri dock in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban on illegal mining took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

 

An aerial photo shows tailings in La Pampa district produced by informal mining in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  

An aerial photo shows tailings in La Pampa district produced by informal mining in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

 

Women try to rescue some belongings after authorities blew up their illegal mining operation in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, but most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  

Women try to rescue some belongings after authorities blew up their illegal mining operation in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, but most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

 

Riot police rest before the start of an operation against illegal mining in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Some 1,500 soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  

Riot police rest before the start of an operation against illegal mining in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Some 1,500 soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

 

In this Friday, May 2, 2014 photo, a gold miner carries special carpets that are used to filter sand for gold at an illegal mine in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  

In this Friday, May 2, 2014 photo, a gold miner carries special carpets that are used to filter sand for gold at an illegal mine in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

 

An aerial photo shows the scope of illegal mining in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. The mining uses tons of mercury and has ravaged forests and poisoned rivers. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  

An aerial photo shows the scope of illegal mining in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. The mining uses tons of mercury and has ravaged forests and poisoned rivers. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

 

A woman throws a rock and a bag at riot policemen who block her way home in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. Before the deadline, miners clashed with police while intermittently blocking traffic on the Interoceanic Highway that links the Pacific with Brazil. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  

A woman throws a rock and a bag at riot policemen who block her way home in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. Before the deadline, miners clashed with police while intermittently blocking traffic on the Interoceanic Highway that links the Pacific with Brazil. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

 


Text from AP news story, Peru Security Forces Trash Illegal Mining Machines, By Frank Bajak

Lead Image Caption:Machinery used for illegal mining burns after authorities blew it up in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Some 1,500 soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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