Peru targets illegal mining

(REUTERS) - On Tuesday, authorities in Peru raided a wildcat mine in the northern Loreto region in an ongoing battle to eradicate illegal miners in the country.

Navy, police and prosecutors were sent to an area close to the towns of Saramiriza and Borja, in the Amazon forest, to blow up dredging equipment used for the extraction of gold in River Maranon.

Local media reported dredging equipment such as electrical generators, pumps, plastic cylinders, hose pipes, suction pumps, belts, gasoline and grease were seized and then destroyed.

The military placed explosives on dredging equipment and blew them up. The rest of the camp was set on fire.

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala launched a crackdown late in 2013 to tackle a decade-long boom in wildcat gold mining that has destroyed swathes of Peru's Amazon forest and laced its rivers with mercury.

Peru's attempted cleanup is its latest effort to control a gold rush in the Amazon jungle, where migrant workers, often from the impoverished highlands, tear through river beds in search of gold nuggets.

The government has targeted companies exporting mined ore, restricted fuel and mercury used in illegal mining hot spots and sent troops to blow up mining equipment in unauthorised camps.

In June last year, Peru's illegal mining czar, Daniel Urresti, declared most clandestine mining in Madre de Dios snuffed out. Shortly after, the retired general was promoted to interior minister.

Still, he acknowledged the proliferation of smuggling gangs based in Puno, another border region, saying large numbers of people cross the frontier "like ants," each carrying small quantities of gold.

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