incredibly tough life of illegal miners in the Madre de Dios region of Peru

incredibly tough life of illegal miners in the Madre de Dios region of Peru

THEY sweat through 28-hour shifts in the malarial jungle of the Madre de Dios region of south-eastern Peru, braving the perils of collapsing earth and limb-crushing machinery to come up with a few grams of gold.

Most illegal miners hail from impoverished highlands communities and even here barely earn subsistence wages. They chew coca leaf, a mild stimulant, to ward off the fatigue that can lead to fatal accidents.

Life is cheap in the mining camps. Deaths go unrecorded and the mercury miners use to bind the gold compounds the risks. Tons of mercury dumped into the environment poisons the food chain for society at large, starting with the miners and their families.

Peru’s government wants to end all that, rooting out the estimated 20,000 wildcat miners whose toil has left a huge scar of denuded Amazon rainforest known as La Pampa, an area nearly three times the size of Washington, D.C.

The informal miners of La Pampa know they will soon be evicted, their engines blown up and settlements burned after Peru’s government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

The informal miners of La Pampa know they will soon be evicted, their engines blown up and settlements burned after Peru’s government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Miners swish carpets, filtering for gold pieces that fall into the pool of water at their feet, in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Miners swish carpets, filtering for gold pieces that fall into the pool of water at their feet, in La Pampa in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

A motortaxi delivers a cargo of mattresses to a mining camp in La Pampa where an estimated 20,000 miners work. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

A motortaxi delivers a cargo of mattresses to a mining camp in La Pampa where an estimated 20,000 miners work. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Artisanal gold miners began carving the lawless, series of ramshackle settlement out of Amazon jungle in 2008. They are now due to be evicted and are working up to the last minute. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Artisanal gold miners began carving the lawless, series of ramshackle settlement out of Amazon jungle in 2008. They are now due to be evicted and are working up to the last minute. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Prisaida, 2, sits in the shallow waters of a polluted lagoon as her parents mine for gold nearby, in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Prisaida, 2, sits in the shallow waters of a polluted lagoon as her parents mine for gold nearby, in La Pampa in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Peru’s government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19 and began a crackdown. It raided the older boomtown of Huepetuhe, dynamiting backhoes, trucks and generators. Troops even destroyed the outboard motors of canoes used to ferry mining equipment across the Inambari river.

A miner rests in the part of the Amazon where they work, which is three times the size of Washington DC. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

A miner rests in the part of the Amazon where they work, which is three times the size of Washington DC. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

A miner roughly estimates his handful of gold he mined, after working for over 24-hours. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

A miner roughly estimates his handful of gold he mined, after working for over 24-hours. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

THEY sweat through 28-hour shifts in the malarial jungle of the Madre de Dios region of south-eastern Peru, braving the perils of collapsing earth and limb-crushing machinery to come up with a few grams of gold.

Most illegal miners hail from impoverished highlands communities and even here barely earn subsistence wages. They chew coca leaf, a mild stimulant, to ward off the fatigue that can lead to fatal accidents.

The incredibly tough life of illegal miners

Artisanal gold miners began carving the lawless, series of ramshackle settlement out of Amazon jungle in 2008. They are now due to be evicted and are working up to the last minute. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

The miners, known as "Maraqueros", remove stones and trees from dirt they hope contains t

The miners, known as “Maraqueros”, remove stones and trees from dirt they hope contains the sought after flecks of gold. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Life is cheap in the mining camps. Deaths go unrecorded and the mercury miners use to bind the gold compounds the risks. Tons of mercury dumped into the environment poisons the food chain for society at large, starting with the miners and their families.

Peru’s government wants to end all that, rooting out the estimated 20,000 wildcat miners whose toil has left a huge scar of denuded Amazon rainforest known as La Pampa, an area nearly three times the size of Washington, D.C.

The informal miners of La Pampa know they will soon be evicted, their engines blown up an

The informal miners of La Pampa know they will soon be evicted, their engines blown up and settlements burned after Peru’s government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Prisaida, 2, sits in the shallow waters of a polluted lagoon as her parents mine for gold

Prisaida, 2, sits in the shallow waters of a polluted lagoon as her parents mine for gold nearby, in La Pampa in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Peru’s government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19 and began a crackdown. It raided the older boomtown of Huepetuhe, dynamiting backhoes, trucks and generators. Troops even destroyed the outboard motors of canoes used to ferry mining equipment across the Inambari river.

A miner rests in the part of the Amazon where they work, which is three times the size of

A miner rests in the part of the Amazon where they work, which is three times the size of Washington DC. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Miners swish carpets, filtering for gold pieces that fall into the pool of water at their

Miners swish carpets, filtering for gold pieces that fall into the pool of water at their feet, in La Pampa in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

In La Pampa, miners fear they are next. Their gasoline supplies have already been choked off by authorities.

Some buried their equipment after the crackdown began only to unearth it days later when no raid came. But come it eventually will, the government says, because there no legal mining concessions exist in La Pampa.

A sex worker employed by a bar poses for a photo in La Pampa. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

A sex worker employed by a bar poses for a photo in La Pampa. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

wiped out. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source

A child ties his father’s raincoat around himself while playing in the front yard of their temporary home. A camp cook said families are threatened with economic catastrophe if the illegal operations are wiped out. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

“Motors are my life. I’m a mechanic. If the government comes and destroys them, then from what will I and my family live?” said Leoncio Condori.

The 51-year-old, a native of the Andes city of Cuzco, has been fixing motors in La Pampa ever since artisanal gold miners began carving out lawless, ramshackle settlements from Amazon jungle there in 2008.

Another sex worker waits for customers. Life is cheap in mining camps where deaths go unrecorded and toxic metal is dumped in rivers. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

Another sex worker waits for customers. Life is cheap in mining camps where deaths go unrecorded and toxic metal is dumped in rivers. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

As miners populated shantytowns, bars like "La Rica Miel" or Delicious Honey in English have sprung up. Above, a sex worker talks with potential customers. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP

As miners populated shantytowns, bars like “La Rica Miel” or Delicious Honey in English have sprung up. Above, a sex worker talks with potential customers. Picture: Rodrigo Abd Source: AP


Tags assigned to this article:
miners

Related Articles

Mark Zuckerberg sued on 30th birthday by developer Mircea Voskerician over real estate deal

A NORTHERN California real estate developer is suing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over a deal involving property behind Zuckerberg’s home.

Profit from the Internet with world’s solutions

Profit from the Internet you can now earn enough money of being a part of world’s solutions (only if you have

insurers and cover prescription drugs, mental and general health services

world’s solutions- insurers Different health insurance policies are offered by employers and insurers and cover prescription drugs, mental and general

No comments

Write a comment
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment this post!

Write a Comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*