Protests by informal miners in the region of Madre de Dios have escalated to the point of violence after ten days of mobilisation. Three people have been pronounced dead and 38 are injured, including nine police officers.
Madre de Dios, which is located in Peru’s south-eastern Amazon basin, has become a site for extensive illegal mining. The area has already suffered large swaths of deforestation and mercury-contamination of rivers as miners push further into buffer zones and wildlife preserves.
The protesters organised to call on the government to revoke new decrees that impose harsh penalties on them for pollution and mining in unauthorised areas.
According to the current Minister of the Environment, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, talks with the informal miners broke down when they continued to increase their demands with each meeting. Protesters blocked the main streets of Madre de Dios and attempted to seize an airport.
More than 40 people have been arrested over the past ten days as tensions continue to mount. Former minister of the environment, Ricardo Giesecke, has joined regional leaders and members of Congress in calling for a state of emergency to be declared.