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  • Illegal mining and drug processing lead to widespread contamination of the Amazon.

    Illegal mining and drug processing lead to widespread contamination of the Amazon. | Photo: @mongabay

Published 21 March 2019 (2 hours 12 minutes ago)

The Peruvian Government has taken a firm stance against illegal mining specifically, through Operation Mercury 2019.

Satellite mapping images gathered by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) have revealed the bleak aftermath of criminal activity taking place in the Peruvian Amazon.

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The MAAP images pinpoint five of the most affected areas of 2018, specifically in Peru's central and southern rainforest regions. The Maria de Dios region holds three of the hotspots, which are suffering deforestation due to illegal gold mining, agriculture operations and unauthorized plantations.

While illegal mining activities are believed to have been going on for at least 15 years, the increase in the price of gold - after the global financial crisis - caused a spike in 2009.

Unauthorized agriculture projects are the main contributor to the remaining hotspots, which are located between the central jungle regions of Ucayali and Huanaco and the northeastern forests of Loreto. Much of the area is technically protected by forest zoning regulations, although the effects of deforestation continue.

The activities fund a multi-million dollar criminal economy, which is largely responsible for the cutting down of over 155,000 hectares of Peru's jungle regions in 2017.

Gold-mining operations in the Madre de Dios marks one illegal activity on the laundry list of crimes run by trafficking cartels. Other organized crimes, such as human trafficking, money laundering, drug processing, logging and land trafficking are also present in the region and may contribute to deforestation.

Illegal mining and drug processing both involve the dumping of toxic chemicals, which make their way into waterways, leading to widespread contamination of the Amazon.

Activities such as logging are often operated by using a legal company as a front. Legal activities seamlessly front for illegal operations due to governmental and corporate corruption.

The Peruvian Government has taken a firm stance against illegal mining specifically, through Operation Mercury 2019.

President Martin Vizcarra banks on the presence of military bases in the Maria de Dios region to deter illegal mining clans from operating in the area, which contains five major national parks and conservation reserves.

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