Mining is big business in Peru. According to Goldbank, "Peru has the biggest non-discovered gold resources on earth. The gold resources are discovered and mined with little costs." A recent Reuters article declares some $50 billion of mostly foreign investment is lined up for extractive industries in Peru over the next decade. In a country with a 30 percent poverty rate, mining offers a promise of rags to riches that for many is impossible to ignore. It is believed a third of a million Peruvians now make their living through informal gold mining. With few government regulations on mining, rising gold prices, and new miners joining the hunt for gold each day, Peru faces growing environmental, health, and security challenges as a result of this informal or small-scale mining.

One area of focus for this project will be the wanton environmental destruction caused by rapidly expanding, unrestricted, wildcat gold mining in one of the most pristine virgin rainforests on earth: the Madre de Dios region. It is the story of Peruvian law enforcement, concerned scientists, and local NGOs, who face near impossible odds in their attempts to halt the deforestation and deadly mercury pollution caused by illegal gold mining in the region.

A second area of focus will be the rise of “fair-mined” gold cooperatives in Peru. This story will compare and contrast the lives of the gold co-op members with the endemic poverty and dangerous conditions faced by small-scale miners in other regions of Peru, like the Madre de Dios rainforest. It will give viewers an inside look at a novel approach to mining gold that offers consumers an alternative to buying gold that was extracted through environmentally unsafe or exploitative means.

Steve Sapienza's picture
Pulitzer Center staff
Steve Sapienza is an award-winning news and documentary producer who has covered a wide range of human security stories in dozens of countries, including the HIV crisis in Haiti and the Dominican...