Rodrigo Velarde, Pure Earth’s new Country Manager for Peru, shares an update on his team’s work in developing responsible solutions to mitigate pollution, and achieving recognition in the Latin American region for its work to create the first mercury-free gold supply chain in the Peruvian Amazon. Read the news report about this work in The Guardian–Gold standard: Peru miners phase out mercury in bid to clean up industry.
Pure Earth Peru has done impactful work that has been reinforced by the commitment and support of the community, industry, and political will that has resulted in meaningful collaborations to achieve a cleaner and healthier future for all.
Since early 2008, Pure Earth has been working on the development of projects to reduce the contamination and impact of lead and mercury in Peru. Starting in 2014, together with local organizations, we initiated the implementation of solutions in the Madre de Dios region to address problems related to gold mining and the exposure of communities to mercury.
Our team in Peru is formed by France Cabanillas, a forestry engineer with a master’s degree in environmental management, specializing in artisanal and small-scale gold mining issues in the Amazon; Sofía López, a forestry engineer specializing in reforestation of areas impacted by mining activities; Claudia Gonzalez, a social communicator specializing in corporate communications; and me, Rodrigo Velarde, a biologist with a master’s degree in corporate social responsibility and sustainable leadership.
Over the years, we have strengthened our track record by building relationships with allies in the public, private, academic, and civil society sectors, seeking to foster synergies and collaboration at the technical and strategic levels. In this sense, we work hard to be an organization that fully understands the country and its regional realities.
We are committed to innovation and transformation, promoting the adoption of best practices, the exchange of knowledge and technology, supporting the creation of public policies, and the development of models that facilitate the implementation and management of projects focused on providing solutions to pollution and protecting the life and well-being of communities.
Our bet is on the future.
PERU PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS
Development of a responsible mining model
Based on learning and trust with our local partners, Pure Earth has focused its work in the Peruvian Amazon on identifying and implementing solutions that stop toxic exposures, protect the health of communities, and help restore the environment.
One of the most successful experiences has been the development of a responsible artisanal and small-scale gold mining model, which is based on the use of clean and efficient technologies to eliminate the use of mercury, and encourage the implementation of sustainable environmental practices and the restoration of degraded areas as part of mine closures.
This process has been improving the quality of life of the miners, protecting communities, and bringing the sector closer to a responsible national and international market.
Green Mining, the first mercury-free gold supply chain in the Peruvian Amazon
Responding to the urgent need to address the negative environmental and social impacts associated with gold mining in the region, the Green Mining project was born.
This project, funded by Brilliant Earth, a global leader in ethically sourced fine jewelry, and implemented by Pure Earth and the Alliance for Responsible Mining, seeks to create the first mercury-free gold supply chain in the Peruvian Amazon, while supporting the restoration of areas of the Amazon rainforest degraded by mining activities.
One of the main project partners has been miners from the Asociación Minera Tauro Fátima (AMATAF) in Madre de Dios, whose commitment and dedication have made them a benchmark for best practices in the region.
Through workshops, the miners have received training in mercury-free mining and reforestation techniques based on our responsible mining model. They have made a big impact on the development of their responsible mining community, growing in an orderly manner, and attracting the interest of responsible national and international markets.
Seeking to facilitate AMATAF’s direct access to the global market and to sell its gold to international markets at a fair price, more than 50 miners from the association are in the process of obtaining Fairmined certification, which will allow them to produce “ecological gold” that meets the requirements of the Fairmined Standard of the Alliance for Responsible Mining. This is a fundamental step towards the creation of the first mercury-free gold supply chain in the Peruvian Amazon.
Read the news report about this work in The Guardian–Gold standard: Peru miners phase out mercury in bid to clean up industry.
First clean gold sale
AMATAF miners have been able to produce mercury-free gold on their own in a constant manner with effective operation of the shaking table, which allows them to reduce extraction times. As a result, in 2018 AMATAF achieved its first “clean” gold sale with Peruvian jewelry company Casa Collab. This was an important milestone in the promotion of responsible and sustainable mining in Peru, and an opportunity to support local miners, encourage the shift to clean technologies, and raise consumer awareness of the importance of responsible mining.
With the continued support of Casa Collab, the miners have been able to perfect smelting techniques, obtaining mercury-free gold of very high quality, which is very attractive to jewelers.
Reforestation of the Amazon rainforest
Working collectively to restore the Amazon rainforest has enabled Pure Earth Peru to leverage solutions to eliminate the risk of contamination and improve the quality of life of the local population.
Since February 2020, with the collaboration of other stakeholders who have been working in the area, miners have worked with Pure Earth to plant over 5,500 trees of different species on 5 hectares in two of AMATAF’s mining concessions, Rosita II and Linda II. The miners were inspired by the reforestation training and initiated a self-directed effort to reforest another 1.5 hectares of land in the Linda 2 and Abel 3 concessions.
Led by AMATAF’s president, Vilma Contreras, the miners have remained steadfast in their interest to improve their practices, demonstrating great enthusiasm for learning how to restore and reforest land degraded by mining as part of their commitment to the Peruvian rainforest.
Considering that soil degradation caused by the type of machinery used in informal mining is complex, Pure Earth has developed soil improvement models suitable for this type of impact.
One of the most effective ways to improve soil quality is through the use of amendments such as biochar, which improve soil structure, reduce erosion, and increase organic matter and biological activity. To alleviate the nutritional needs of seedlings installed in areas degraded by gold mining, a substrate enriched with organic matter and efficient microorganisms is added. This process also includes the planting of leguminous plants for their rapid growth and ability to add nitrogen supply to the soil when they used as “green manure,” a system whereby a crop is used to feed the soil.
Mining women’s network
As women are the key to change in many communities, Pure Earth Peru supports the initiative to increase female participation in the mining sector and promote equal rights, opportunities, and benefits for both men and women to help them pursue sustainable livelihoods in mining.
This project works with different stakeholders to empower women, from finding gender-sensitive financial mechanisms to accessing mercury-free technologies and developing equal market routes in the gold supply chain.
Through this project, we ensure that all men and women can grow together, participate and access all resources equally in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector.
Reducing lead poisoning
Currently, Pure Earth Peru is part of a global project that will take place in five countries. The project focuses on the rapid identification and intervention in possible cases of lead poisoning, seeking to mitigate the long-term effects on children’s health.
Another global project called Rapid Market Screenings, funded by Give Well, has been underway since July 2021. The project seeks to identify potential sources of lead in consumer products sold in markets, implement interventions to reduce lead exposure from the most important sources, and perform baseline analysis of blood lead levels to estimate the effect of interventions. Samples have been collected from Peruvian markets and sent for analysis. The project is planned for 25 countries, of which 15 are already in the process of sampling, analysis, and validation.