Peru's Gold Rush: Wealth and Woes

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.

A Cursed Land: Peru's Rainforest

Peru's rainforests have been a hot spot for resource extraction even before rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarald first arrived in the Madre de Dios region.

Digging for Gold in the Peruvian Rainforest

As many as 20,000 people are involved in illegal gold mining in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, which has resulted in the destruction of soil and forests as well as the release of toxic mercury.

President Humala's Agenda

Recently inaugurated President Humala will have to confront Peru's mining and extraction industries, which have caused years of controversy between the government and the indigenous people.