A decade of illegal gold mining has transformed a formally lush area in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon into a wasteland.
In February 2019, the president of the region of Madre de Dios (where most of the destructive mining takes place) declared a state of emergency and dispatched police officers and soldiers to La Pampa, the largest illegal mining camp in the region. La Pampa is (or was) a lawless place where guns and drugs abound and murders occur every day along with human trafficking, child labour, and even child prostitution. “Operation Mercury” destroyed everything. The government forces dynamited the miners’ equipment and burned their shantytown to the ground.
The government succeeded in driving the miners away: La Pampa is now a ghost town.
Sadly, this crackdown didn’t end the illegal mining. Instead, the miners dispersed to other isolated areas, including the remote area of Ashipal where the Amazon Rainforest Conservancy (ARC) lands are located.
We now find our lands surrounded by miners who are illegally dredging the Ashipal stream for gold. The situation has become serious enough that last month we deconstructed the building on our land and reassembled it deeper in the jungle. This is from concern for our staff’s safety and also to help ensure our gear isn’t stolen. (These miners will steal everything if given the chance, including wood from buildings, equipment and food… even rubber boots!) Nothing is safe. The mindset is, if you’re not holding onto it, it’s not yours to keep.
ARC needs to address this situation quickly and efficiently. We were in the midst of fundraising for a small informal forest ranger program. Now we realize that is not enough!
In November, ARC Founder and President Jana Bell will be travelling to Peru. ARC has recruited a retired Royal Marine and former Park Warden from the Department of Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka to help us develop a forest ranger program that will address surrounding threats. This gentleman has a passion for the rainforest after years spent guiding scientists in the Ecuadorian jungle.
Everything seems to have fallen into place at a critical time, but we can’t do this without your help. Please consider donating to our Forest Ranger program (link below). We need your support to cover salaries, food, transportation and equipment for our rangers.
We must take a stand at this crucial time and not delay. The rainforest lands we’re protecting need our help, and they need it now.
Jana Bell, standing in front of one of the many illegal mining operations popping up around ARC lands.