Mother Nature has been extremely generous with Peru, and has presented it with a valuable treasure such as its exuberant Amazon Forest and in the depths of its earth, the presence of the coveted golden mineral, which has given rise to the existence of numerous mines and gold washing places in the country.
Over the years, many national and international companies have heard of the treasures which may be extracted in Peru and have settled in its provinces. In this process methods have evolved and they have the Escuela de Minas, whose object is to train competent professionals, capable of offering a better organisation in order to guarantee the optimum achievement of the mining companies’ aims.
But there is another side to the story, beside the great mining companies and their expensive equipment and potential, sits the illegal extraction of this mineral in far away areas of the Amazon Forest, where control by the Government environmental and financial agencies has proven difficult. There are different reasons why this illicit activity has arisen such as shortage of employment in rural areas, increase in the gold price and tax avoidance which in turn results in an increase in profits. But all this is being done without control and the heads of these illegal extraction operations do not take into consideration environmental conservation issues provoking in turn further erosion (than that caused by any mineral extractions, even when using appropriate means) and an increase in the contamination of rivers as mercury and cyanide are being poured inappropriately into water sources.
In this scenario, problems are not only environmental but also social. According to studies undertaken by Peruvian authorities, the business of illegal extraction creates problems such as child prostitution (in the area known as Madre de Dios, it is thought that over 300 children work in prostitution in bars near the illegal mines) and that others are subject to child labour, having to work from a very early age without being paid for it. Other consequences of illegal extractions are smuggling and illegal trafficking of arms.
It is not just a matter of gold. In these crossroads, the wish of the few to quickly enrich themselves provokes serious problems, which may be more difficult to eradicate than illegal mining itself.
Article by : Lizette Paternina
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