Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is a traditional livelihood in Peru, providing much needed income for many impoverished communities. Currently, the prevailing method of ASGM in the country involves using large amounts of mercury to extract gold. These activities result in the release of tons of mercury each year, causing significant air, soil, and water contamination and severe health impacts on local communities.
Furthermore, small-scale gold mining results in substantial environmental degradation. Peru’s Madre de Dios, one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, has experienced the worst deterioration from gold mining in South America. A 2013 report by the Peruvian Ministry of Environment reported that the amount of forest destroyed by gold mining in Madre de Dios increased by 400% between 1999 and 2012 – from 10,000 hectares to more than 50,000 hectares.
To lessen the negative impact of ASGM in Peru, Pure Earth is conducting community-led reforestation in the Peruvian Amazon and training artisanal gold miners in mercury-free mining methods. By the conclusion of the project, Pure Earth plans to:
- Remediate and restore 3-5 hectares of rainforest degraded by artisanal gold mining in Madre de Dios, including maintenance and replanting;
- Select at least one mining community of 50-100 miners in which to train in mercury-free mining including:
- Foster community awareness of the human health and environmental impacts of mercury via educational workshops;
- Conduct environmental and to determine baseline levels of mercury poisoning and contamination;
- Train miners in profitable, mercury-free mining practices;
- Monitor the miners to ensure longevity.
- Expand the capacity of the Peruvian government to replicate similar restoration projects and training processes;
- Share results with the broader, global community.
Pure Earth is currently the only organization working directly with miners to restore land degraded by gold mining.
Learn more about our work to reduce mercury pollution from artisanal gold mining in Peru: