Peruvian Gold Mine Operating Without Permission Destroys Forest In Protected Region

Authorities with the regional forest authority of Huánuco, Peru, were inspecting a protected forest in the region recently when they discovered something that stunned them: A gold mine was operating in the area without the proper permits and had destroyed a large section of the forest, Mongabay reports:

“When inspectors from Peru’s Technical Administration for Forestry and Wildlife (ATFFS) in Puerto Inca Province received a complaint about the presence of miners in the buffer zone around the El Sira Communal Reserve, they sent up a drone that captured images of a forest devastated by gold mining. The images revealed piles of dirt and pools of green water.

“Jorge Valdivia Ramírez, the administrator of the ATFFS office in Puerto Inca, told Mongabay Latam that the inspection was done because residents from Puerto Inca were concerned about the potentially harmful effects of gold mining in the area. ‘There is evidence that primary forests and water resources have been affected,’ Valdivia said.”

According to Sodi Claudio Tolentino, a Puerto Inca resident who has protested mining activities, the devastation caused by gold mining in a forest cannot possibly be overstated:

“Large areas of land are being preyed upon, and the effects of pollution are already being seen in the Pintuyacu River. They extract gold with heavy machinery and destroy everything in their path.”

How did this happen? The explanation shows just how greedy and lawless some mining companies are.

A mining concession had been granted to the Chinese company Bing Xiao He by Peruvian authorities. But mining is allegedly being done without any permits. As Tolentino notes:

“We have filed complaints about the destruction of the environment. These are Chinese and Korean citizens who have brought in heavy machinery to extract gold. They are advancing within the El Sira buffer zone and are already almost reaching the reserved area.”

The bottom line is that the mine is operating illegally because it has no permit.

What’s even worse is that the mining is affecting more than just the immediate region where the mine is located:

“Local residents say the mining operation is affecting a larger area than expected. Jorge Burgos Abanto, a member of the Puerto Inca civil society organization speaking out against the mine, says that ‘these Chinese and Korean citizens are registered as artisanal miners, but they develop large mining operations.'”

When the mining operations were discovered and reported, Regional Directorate of Energy and Mines ordered that all activity cease immediately. But those who live close to the mine say miners are continuing to mine, doing so at night to try and hide their actions.

The damage to the forest is already considerable:

“Satellite data from the University of Maryland show much of the area was covered in old growth rainforest before the Inca Dorado 2 concession was granted in 2012. Since then, more than 30 hectares (74 acres) of old growth rainforest has been cleared at the mining site.”

In addition to the loss of a protected rainforest, several threatened species are also at risk as a result of the illegal mining:

“The area has high biodiversity and is home to threatened wildlife, including the endangered purple-sided leaf frog (Callimedusa baltea) that has a known range of only 117 square kilometers (45 square miles). The primary forest where the mining project is operating is also comprised of important tree species, according to the ATFFS report. One of these is the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra), a species listed as ‘Near Threatened’ in Peru.”

Environmental activists are collecting evidence and plan to file a formal accusation against Bing Xiao He, but nothing can possibly bring back the portions of the forest that have already been destroyed as a result of the gold mining operation.

 

Featured Image Via Wikimedia Commons 

 

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Andrew Bradford
 

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