Photo: Peruvian Navy via El Comercio

The Peruvian government recently announced a more aggressive strategy to combat illicit mining in 2014. The High Commissioner for Formalization of Mining, Daniel Urresti, said that the Peruvian Navy will carry out daily patrols, as well as more frequent operations to stop illicit miners.

“We will try to do two a month, so that they won’t have the chance to recover the funds that they will lose in the ban,” he said. To reach remote areas of the alluvial forest, they will need specialized equipment and teams in the air.

Other measures, like strict limits on the amounts of fuel that can enter the area, will also be reinforced in the coming weeks with new decrees. Urresti said that a coming decree would suspend the granting of new licenses for gas stations in the area, where 80% of fuel is used for illicit mining activities.

The legislative decree aims to disrupt illicit mining with the end of guaranteeing public health, conservation of natural ecosystems, tax collection and sustainable economic development.

This year, the government has already carried out several operations, including the destruction of mining equipment in the national wildlife reservation of Tambopata and seizure of illicit gold on its way to be exported.

However, illicit miners are not giving up easily on their way of life. Despite the environmental and health risks of illicit mining, it’s a vital economic engine in otherwise impoverished communities. In this article in the Peruvian Times, the mining representatives interviewed say they are being unfairly targeted. The increased military presence will only force them into wilder, less controlled areas.  And they suggest that “more should be done to help, not hinder, the lives they have carved out for themselves in this Amazon frontier.”