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Illegal gold mining in La Pampa and Tambopata National Reserve, Peru

La Pampa has become one of Peru's most important gold rush areas, causing massive deforestation and environmental pollution but also an increase in organized crime and escalating violence particularly against women and environmental activists.


La Pampa is Peru’s largest illegal open mining area and still rapidly expanding. Mining in the area, which is located in the south  of the Amazonian Madre de Dios region, approximately 100 kilometers from Puerto Maldonado, started in the 1970s but for a long time mostly remained a small-scale activity of artisanal miners. More recently, however, the area of La Pampa has experienced a dramatic expansion of illegal mining and also in nearby areas further mining zones have popped up or expanded, for example in the north of the highway and further south along the Alto Malinowski, subsequently threatening the Bahuaja Sonene National Park and the Tambopata Natural Reserve, two particularly fragile ecosystems with one of the highest biodiversities in the Amazon. In neither of these areas official mining concessions exist. [1][2][3] Thus, the La Pampa area has become the epicenter of the region’s recent gold rush and caused massive deforestation and environmental pollution as well as rapid inward-migration along the corridor of the recently opened Interoceanic Highway and a proliferating social crisis.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Illegal gold mining in La Pampa and Tambopata National Reserve, Peru
State or province:Inambari (Tambopata)
Location of conflict:Alto Libertad
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific commodities:Gold
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Project area:min. 62,500
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:01/07/2006
Relevant government actors:Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas por el Estado (SERNANP)
Ministerio del Ambiente
Peruvian authorities, e.g. Marina de Guerra del Perú (DICAPI), Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas and Dirección General de Capitanías y Guardacostas
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Asociación de Conservación Amazónica (ACCA)
Asociación Huarayo
Amazon Conservation
Centro de Innovación Científica Amazónica (CINCIA)
Fundación Pure Earth
Federación de Concesionarios de Forestación y/o Reforestación de Madre de Dios (FEFOREMAD)
Consorcio Madre de Dios
Promsex (Human Rights)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Threats to use arms
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Noise pollution, Global warming
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases
Potential: Malnutrition, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
New legislation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Assassination of environmental activist Alfredo Ernesto Vracko Neuenschwander
Proposal and development of alternatives:Although the impacts on biodiversity and the loss of primary forest are irreversible, there are also projects to reforest areas degraded by illegal mining, for example one operated by the local CINCIA institute and the Fundación Pure Earth, often including international partner organizations that engage in local community or wildlife projects. In one of the affected areas, CINCIA also holds trainings for local communities to engage as park rangers and detect mercury pollution. Reforestation initiatives were also started by local organizations such as the Consorcio Madre de Dios which together with local artisanal miners of the Manuani community. They have been working in La Pampa for more than 20 years before the mass arrival of the illegal miners, but with knowledge of the Ministry of Environment and without heavy machinery. [3][11][26][27]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

4. Finer, M., Olexy, T., Novoa, S. (2016): La Minería Aurífera Deforestó 12,800 Hectáreas en la Amazonia Peruana Sur desde el 2013 al 2016. MAAP: 50.
[click to view]

8. Finer. M., Villa, L., Mamani, N. (2018): La Minería Aurífera continúa devastando la Amazonía Peruana Sur. MAAP: 87.
[click to view]

6. Finer, M., Novoa, S., Olexy, T., Durand, L (2017): La Minería Aurífera se Incrementa en la Zona de Amortiguamiento de la Reserva Nacional Tambopata. MAAP: 60.
[click to view]

7. Finer, M., Novoa, S., Olexy, T. (2017): La Minería Aurífera se Reduce en la Reserva Nacional Tambopata. MAAP: 61.
[click to view]

5. Asner G., Llactayo W., Tupayachi R., Ráez Luna E. (2013): Elevated rates of gold mining in the Amazon revealed through high-resolution monitoring. PNAS, 110 (46) 18454-18459.
[click to view]

26. Centro de Innovación Científica Amazónica Website
[click to view]

20. Fraser, B. (2015): Grassroots leader’s murder in Peru is a signal to opponents of mining, son says. Mongabay News, 27.11.2015. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

21. Castilla, O., Luna, N., Torres, F. (2015): Oro sucio: la pista detrás del London Bullion Market. OjoPúblico, 09.06.2015. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

9. Romo, V. (2018): Peru’s Bahuaja-Sonene National Park at risk over illegal mining. Mongabay News, 19.06.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

3. Romo,V. (2018): Perú: deforestación por minería de oro en Madre de Dios es la más alta en los últimos 32 años. 05.09.2018.(Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

2. Pighi-Bel (2016): Tambopata: la reserva natural de Perú que empieza a convertirse en un desierto. BBC Online, 15.10.2016. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

1. La Prensa (2017): Perú: así es deforestación minera en nueva zona crítica de Amazonía-.La Prensa, 31.10.2017. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

14. Perú 21 (2014): Madre de Dios: Minería ilegal ha destruido más de 40 mil hectáreas de bosques. 11.12.2014. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

16. Reaño, G. (2016): Madre de Dios: la desaparición de una mujer que rescató a una niña de los prostibares de La Pampa. 31.03.2016. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

18. Alayo, F. (2017): La Pampa: 38% de las mujeres de la zona son explotadas sexualmente. El Comercio, 14.10.2017. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

19. Butler, R. (2015): Environmentalist gunned down by illegal miners in Peru. Mongabay News, 20.11.2015. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

11. Pro Activo (2018): Sembrando bosques donde hubo minería en Madre de Dios. 24.09.2018. (Online, last accessed: 30.09.2018)
[click to view]

22. El Comercio (2012): Mineros informales de Madre de Dios amenazan con ir a un paro en agosto. 24.07.2012. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

17. Trome (2017): Macabro hallazgo en Madre de Dios: Hallan fosas donde delincuentes quemaban restos de mineros ilegales [VIDEO y FOTOS]. 28.02.2017. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

24. SPDA (2018): Defensoría pide declarar estado de emergencia en zona crítica de minería ilegal. 23.01.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

27. SPDA (2014): Madre de Dios: mineros artesanales de La Pampa reconocen daño ambiental y trabajan en reforestación. 20.01.2014. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

10. La República (2016): Madre de Dios: el azote de la minería ilegal no se detiene en “La Pampa” | VIDEO. 20.12.2015. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

28. van Eerten, J. (2017): The Road That Exposed Peru’s Amazon. Earth Island Journal, 24.02.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

23. Guidi, A. (2015): Illegal gold miners in Madre de Dios, Peru, paralyze the region with protests. Mongabay News, 04.12.2015. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

13. Escobar, R. (2018): Perú: informe arroja alarmantes niveles de mercurio en Madre de Dios. 22.08.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

25. Ministerio del Ambiente (2016): Se recuperan 250 hectáreas de la Reserva Nacional Tambopata de manos de la minería ilegal. 26.10.2016. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

12. SPDA (2016): Mineros ilegales desviaron curso natural de río Malinowski en límite con RN Tambopata. 12.10.2016. (Online, last accessed 30.08.2018)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video about La Pampa (2014): La maldicion del oro amaznico Mineria Ilegal Peru La Pampa Madre de Dios.
[click to view]

15. Promsex (2016): #NoMasNiñasInvisibles Contra la trata de personas en Madre de Dios. 22.06.2016.
[click to view]

Interview with son of assassinated environmnetal activist (2015) - “ENTREVISTA FREDDY VRACKO SOBRE ASESINATO DE SU PADRE DON ALFREDO VRACKO NEUENSCHWANDER”
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Max Stoisser
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3830
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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