Informal miners took to the streets this week across Peru to pressure the government to extend a deadline for regulating their activities.
Today for the second day in Lima, helmet-wearing miners marched to Congress, blocking traffic on one of downtown’s main streets. In the southern highlands of Juliaca, some 2,000 miners also marched through the streets, while in the coastal town of Chala as well as Yauca and a section of Majes, in Arequipa region, some 15,000 miners blocked several sections of the important Panamericana Sur highway.
The marches, which have been planned for weeks, are to protest the government’s policies for regulating their activities and to demand an extension of the April 19 deadline to become incorporated into the legal system. The government is taking several actions against the miners, who are evading taxes and are also blamed for causing serious environmental contamination in the Amazon, corrupting government officials, and giving rise to human trafficking, forced labor and underage prostitution.
Although an important number of miners are involved in illegal gold mining —which brings in more revenue than the drug trade — on the rivers in the Amazon basin in Madre de Dios and in the high, barren altiplano of Puno, laundering millions of dollars in gold profits, there are also hundreds of small informal mines throughout the country where prospectors do not meet even the most minimal personal safety and environmental protection standards.
The government’s actions against the miners include recent police operations to blow up machinery that is being used illegally, as the April deadline approaches to register with the government. The miners say they want the deadline postponed, as well as a new legal framework to regulate their work.
On Thursday, informal mining leader Teodulo Medina said that he met with the president of Congress, Fredy Otarola, who agreed to work with the miners on their demands. Otarola is a senior lawmaker in President Ollanta Humala’s Gana Peru party.
“Those [two] topics are the most important and they are going to work on them going forward with Mr. Otarola,” said Medina in comments to RPP Noticias.
It is still unclear if that agreement will include an extension to the April deadline. Mining commissioner Daniel Urresti said prior to the announcement of the meeting with Otarola that the executive would not extend the deadline.