LIMA – Wildcat miners in the Amazonian region of Madre de Dios will receive operating permits within a year under an agreement their leaders reached with the Peruvian government.
Authorities will work with the members of the Madre de Dios Mining Federation to achieve “an orderly formalization” of miners now operating outside regulations, Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal said.
Roughly 30,000 “informal” miners extract gold in the region’s so-called mining corridor, while “illegal” miners are working in nature preserves and other areas where mining is prohibited.
The deal announced in Lima covers only the informal miners, officials said, explaining that illegal miners will face tougher enforcement.
Experts say both informal and illegal miners contribute to deforestation and dump mercury and cyanide into rivers.
Three people died, at least 38 were injured and more than 50 were arrested last week in Madre de Dios in clashes between the unregulated miners and police.
Miners and police fought for hours Wednesday on the streets of the southeastern city of Puerto Maldonado, the regional capital, where government offices and businesses were vandalized.
The protests were against a soon-to-be-enacted law that mandates prison time for miners who do not regularize their situation, adhere to environmental regulations and pay taxes.
Protest leaders declared a truce late last week for talks with the government, discussions that bore fruit on Monday.
Pulgar Vidal said the government would simplify the process for miners to register their machinery and obtain concessions, urging Mining Federation leader Luis Otzuka “to leave any rancor behind” and strive for social peace in Madre de Dios.
The pact came only a few days after Cabinet chief Oscar Valdes said that “organized crime” was behind the protests that forced the government to mobilize 1,000 soldiers in Madre de Dios. EFE