Business & Economy

Peru’s Wild West wreaks havoc on environment

By Carla Samon Ros

Puerto Maldonado, Peru, Oct 6 (EFE).- A barren and muddy wasteland is all that is left of what used to be a lush Peruvian jungle that was pillaged during the so-called gold rush which transformed the area into a criminal hub of illegal mining.

Some 25,000 hectares of Amazonian jungle have been destroyed in La Pampa, Peru’s largest illegal gold mining area in the Tambopata national reserve located in the Madre de Dios region.

Despite pouring millions into the region to avoid deforestation on a massive scale and environmental pollution, organized crime is rife and the region has seen an escalation of violence, especially against women, and human trafficking.

“In La Pampa, there is no state presence or any authority that is in control of everything that unfolds there,” Madre de Dios regional governor Luis Hidalgo told EFE.


Deep in La Pampa there is a town with no name. Its 40,000 strong-population devotes itself primarily to illegal mining, the provincial prosecutor in charge of environmental issues of Madre de Dios, who requested anonymity, told Efe.

In this makeshift city, luxury is sparse, but there are plenty of hotels, restaurants, bars and, above all, brothels. The dimly lit saloons conjure images of cowboys in the Old West.

The growth of mining camps in the area was coupled with a sharp spike in gold prices in 2011 when the metal reached $2,000 per ounce, and the completion of the Interoceanic Highway, which connects Brazil and Peru.

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