Illegal mining, particularly for gold, has become a measurable part of the Peruvian economy. By some estimates artisanal miners produce 20% of gold in that country, equivalent to about $2.6 billion in value. There are an estimated 100,000 individuals engaged in illegal mining, and perhaps another 400,000 people who rely on the practice.
But the Peruvian government is cracking down on artisanal miners. Last year it passed law DL1105 that sets April 19, 2014, as the last day for illegal miners to regularize their operations. There are good reasons for setting limits – the country has to control the environmental impact of such operations (particularly as cyanide and mercury are involved), social unrest often accompanies the creation of a mining operation, and there are tax revenues to be had.
The country has at 70,000 artisanal gold miners, at least that is the number that expressed interest to the government in regularizing their operations. Of them, only 30,000 or about 40% have begun the process. And the Peruvian government insists next year’s deadline is firm.
Complicating the process is that regional governments are responsible for regulating mining, but most of them lack the resources to enforce controls. Hence, the need for co-ordination if not funding from the central government.
One must applaud the efforts of the Peruvian government to control the environmental damage, health effects, and social strife that accompany illegal mining. We wish the best for anyone trying to push small mining practices into the 21st Century. The benefits are many.