Business Normal In Madre de Dios Amid Illegal Mine Protests

Business activities in southern Peru’s Madre de Dios department were normal on Monday despite the start of protests by informal gold miners, the president of the local chamber of commerce, Roman Meza, said.

Shops and banks opened their doors, while activities at public agencies were also normal, as illegal miners launched protests calling for the government to reverse legislation approved last week that outlaws informal mining, state news agency Andina said.

D.L. 1102, published Feb. 29 in the official gazette El Peruano, considers sentences of between four to eight years’ imprisonment for unauthorized mining and for environmental damage, and up to 10 years on convictions for mining in unauthorized areas —natural reserves and peasant or indigenous community lands—as well as using river dredges, and contaminating irrigation or water systems.

The sentences also apply in the case of employing minors in the industry, and to government officials who grant fraudulent authorizations for such operations.

Another decree that protesters want revoked is D.L. 1100, which declares actions to be taken against illegal mining a national priority. The actions include not only priority in documentary processes by the ministries of the Environment and of Energy and Mines but, more importantly, operations by military and police teams with ministry officials.

The regional president of Madre de Dios, Jose Luis Aguirre, said that much of the population was against the protests. He estimated that while some 4,000 protesters participated in the demonstrations, many of them came from the neighboring regions of Cusco and Puno.

The protests are being led by the Mining Federation of Madre de Dios, or Fedemin.

Aguirre said that there are approximately 60,000 people involved in informal and illegal mining in Madre de Dios.

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