Gold is one of the major metals and minerals mined in Peru. Some of its counter parts include copper, silver, zinc, and tin. With gold being a global currency, and one of the few that remains stable—mining has become big business in Peru. Globally, there were 3,100 metric tons of gold mined in 2016, but how much of that comes from mining companies in Peru?
In 2016, Peru’s gold mines moved from the number seventh to sixth. The country peaked in the early 2000’s at 208,002 kg in 2005, and now averages around 140,000 to 150,000 kg each year. This generates an impressive amount of revenue for the country, in taxes used to improve social welfare programs.
Artisanal miners account for an impressive 25% of miners in Peru. While many are dedicated to mining and selling their gold with integrity, a large amount artisanal miners mine and sell their gold illegally on the black market. This leaves many wondering if Peru is indeed number six globally, or closer one slot higher. While artisanal miners run smaller operations, the sheer volume of small mining operations simply can’t be ignored.
Those who mine illegally run small crew operations, of which evidence of the environmental exploitation is clear. There are thousands of unchecked operators who mine in the Amazon rainforests. To date, these operations are responsible for over 200 square miles of deforestation. Much of this is caused by the pollution of their small-op mining and the trees and foliage that is removed to make room for their towers, excavators, and mining equipment. Many of these miners still use mercury to mine, as it gloms to gold flakes making mining fast and easy. However, mercury poisons the river and surrounding river banks and vegetation. This polluted water often turns orange, brown, or light blue. Although polluted, it is a water source for many—humans and wildlife alike. The poisoning has become so saturated in some areas of the country that Peru has had to claim a state of emergency until toxicity is addressed.
The global mining companies who follow the proper channels to mine on government approved sites, are held accountable to environmentally-friendly mining practices. While their goal is to mine as much gold as they can, it is to do so with limited negative impact on the local ecosystem. They are also held accountable to, and fined if they mine irresponsibly. If they don’t uphold their contracts, they risk losing them, which is something major mining companies in Peru simply don’t want to risk.
Any way you look at it, gold mining in Peru will remain a lucrative source of income for the country, global mines, legal small miners, and the illegal mining operations. But with the volume of black market mining, the exact amount of gold mined in Peru each year is impossible to accurately calculate.