Updated 10:26 PM EST, Fri, Jan 28, 2022

Illegal Gold Mining Activities in Peru Destroying Tambopata National Reserve

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The destruction from the illegal gold mining activities in Peru has now reached the Tambopata National Reserve, a protected area in the country's southern Amazon region.

Al Jazeera reported that the reason behind the environmental damage's rapid spread is rooted in the methods used by more than 30,000 illegal gold miners conducting operations in the area.

Phil Torres of "TechKnow" paid a visit to La Pampa, the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve, to see how illegal mining is turning forests into toxic wastelands, the news outlet wrote. Over 100,000 acres of rainforest have been cleared there to give way to mining operations.

One of the areas Torres investigated was Puerto Madonado, the capital of the Madre de Dios ("Mother of God") region of Peru, Al Jazeera reported. The area is deemed as one of the world's most biodiverse locations and is the site of 70 percent of the country's unlawful gold production. An estimated 30,000 illegal gold miners are said to be in Puerto Madonado.

Torres told Al Jazeera that miners "chop down trees and use high-pressure water hoses to dissolve the soil," a technique which "can turn a primary rainforest into a barren wasteland in just a matter of days."

"The miners also use mercury -- which binds with gold and forms an amalgam. These miners are not only exposed to toxic mercury -- the chemical and its vapors when they burn it off -- they're also contaminating the land and inadvertently poisoning food chains," Al Jazeera wrote.

Luis Fernandez, the director the Carnegie Amazon Mercury Ecosystem Project, has been studying the illegal gold mining's toxic effects since 2000. According to Fernandez, mercury "magnifies" and "the more it travels along the food chain the stronger the contamination becomes," Al Jazeera further reported. Fishes from these waters are being caught and eaten by people hundreds of kilometers downstream.

Ernesto Raez Luna, a former adviser of the Ministry of Environment, said that the Peruvian government is making efforts to put a stop to illicit mining, Al Jazeera added. Carnegie Department of Global Ecology's Greg Asner has developed a high-tech aircraft called the "Carnegie Airborne Observatory," which captured aerial images of the mining devastation in 2013 and is equipped with a spectrometer that detects chemicals.

Asner noted that the miners go "below the biologically active part of the soil, so deep in the soil that there isn't a science to tell us this forest could ever recover," according to the news outlet.

A report released by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project, or MAAP, showed that 2,500 hectares of La Pampa has been damaged between 2013 and 2015 due to illegal gold mining.

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