Peru: Community-Led Reforestation and Mercury-Free Trainings
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. In 2013 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 conducted community-led reforestation in the Peruvian Amazon and trained artisanal gold miners in mercury-free mining methods. Pure Earth worked with miners from AMATAF, an ASGM association in Madre de Dios. The following milestones were achieved by the conclusion of this 2019–2022 project funded by the Tiffany & Co. Foundation:
• Pure Earth led remediation and restoration of 5 hectares of rainforest degraded by artisanal gold mining in Madre de Dios, including maintenance and replanting
• Hands-on trainings of the miners in reforestation techniques, including species selection and planting
• Miner-initiated and -led reforestation of an additional 1 hectare
• Hands-on trainings of the miners in soil amendment generation and application to restore degraded rainforest soil
• AMATAF mining trained in the adverse health effects of mercury and in mercury-free mining techniques
• Reparation and calibration of gravimetric table owned by the association; miners then learned to operate this gravimetric table to process the gold instead of mercury
• Experimentation and calibration of mining equipment to increase gold recovery efficiency
• Partnering with local institutions CINCIA and CITE-Minería y Medio Ambiente to increase capacity and community knowledge
• AMATAF members trained on mercury-free gold smelting techniques
• First sale of mercury-free AMATAF gold to Lima-based jewelry business Casa Collab
• Enthusiasm and motivation of miners to continue improving their mining practices through a commitment to achieve Fairmined certification under a future project
Find more information here in the final report Mercury-Free Miner Training and Amazon Rainforest Restoration in Madre de Dios, Peru: 2019–2022.
Pure Earth is the first organization working directly with miners to restore land degraded by gold mining.