In Peru, the increase in agricultural activities and illegal mining has increased deforestation in the Amazon region; Among the areas with the greatest impact, “La Pampa” stands out, located in the Madre de Dios Region. This serious situation made the Peruvian State to start, in 2019, the implementation of the “Comprehensive Plan Against Illegal Mining in Madre de Dios (La Pampa)”, with the aim of stopping the illegal activities that had been developing and recovering the principle of authority through the execution of multisectoral actions. In this article, the existing challenges for the implementation of this Plan are analyzed, emphasizing the need to develop capacities so that the military forces operating in this part of the Peruvian Amazon can effectively carry out their work, as well as the urgency of greater articulation, commitment and involvement on the part of public institutions.
Keywords: illegal mining, strategy, institutional articulation, Amazon
According to the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, in recent decades deforestation in the Amazon region has increased dramatically, essentially due to the use of land for agricultural and mining activities.1 This situation impacts not only the environment, but also the more than 33 million people – mostly members of indigenous communities – who live in that region.2
The relationship between man and the environment has a reflective grip since 1940, when Aldo Leopold raised the need to initiate an environmental ethical meditation on the behavior and interaction of man with ecosystems.3 Even Rachel Carson, considered the mother of environmental movements, 4 in her famous work “Silent Spring” (1962), called attention to the need to develop an environmental awareness due to the damage that humans cause to the planet.5 These approaches demand, at present, a global analytical reflection on what must be done to face the various existing environmental threats.
In Peru, the increase in agricultural activities, such as the cultivation of oil palm, and illegal mining, mainly in the Tambopata area, have dramatically increased deforestation in the Amazon region,6 which would have reached, according to data from the Ministry of the Environment, 147,000 hectares in 2019.7 Similarly, factors such as the increase in the price of gold and the construction of the interoceanic highway have driven energetic commercial activity in the region.8
Among the most impacted areas in Peru, “La Pampa” stands out, located in the buffer zone of the Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios region. In 2019, this difficult situation forced the Peruvian State to implement the Comprehensive Plan Against Illegal Mining in Madre de Dios (La Pampa) in order to stop illegal activities and to recover the principle of authority through the execution of actions coordinated multisectoral.
In this article, the existing challenges for the implementation of the mentioned Plan are analyzed, emphasizing the need to develop capacities so that the military forces operating in this part of the Peruvian Amazon can effectively carry out their work, as well as the urgency of greater articulation, commitment and involvement on the part of the public institutions involved.
Illegal mining in La Pampa and its effect on climate change
Illegal mining is a criminal phenomenon that has serious effects on the environment and society. This activity “is characterized by the use of heavy machinery, specifically dredges, with which the soil is removed from the banks and the bottom of the rivers, altering ecosystems and generating the loss of habitat for many species.”9 Likewise, illegal mining benefits –mainly- a small group of people (the owners of the camps), while the great mass of workers chooses for this activity due to their economic need.10 In the case of the illicit activities carried out in the Pampa, these originated due to the almost null presence of the State and the acts of corruption that involved local authorities.11
Unfortunately, the consequences of these actions have been devastating for the Amazon region. According to the Report prepared by the Peruvian Amazon Research Institute (IIAP) and the Ministry of the Environment, the environmental impact in the Pampa is very serious and includes the destruction of both forests (400 hectares per year) and alluvial agricultural lands. , as well as the effect on the quality of the water, the alteration of the landscape and the sound impact that harms the fauna and disturbs the tourist activity that could take place in this sector.12 Furthermore, illegal mining and the use of mercury have generated not only huge portions of contaminated soils, but also human exploitation and human trafficking, symptoms of undeniable moral degradation.
Climate change: a threat to the future
Pollution caused by illegal mining has been generating irreparable environmental damage that -in many cases- harms the human being himself. The UN estimates that by 2025, around 1.7 billion people will suffer from water shortages,13 without taking into consideration the harmful effects on health, among others.
The care of the land and nature has been analyzed from the environmental ethics. Leopold stated that nature is an organic whole, referring to it as land (land) and considering all the collective (water, plants, animals) that make it up, developing an understanding of the earth as an ecosystem and not as soil.14 Thus, from this perspective, man can be considered as one more element of this biotic team, where there are no differentiated, subordinate or isolated elements. It has been more than half a century since these concepts were shared. However, at present, there is a greater social awareness that perceives the environment as a whole, managing to understand that pollution affects, in general terms, everyone.
The effects of climate change are beginning to show; Some natural resources such as water are even valued in non-traditional spaces, as is the case of the Wall Street stock market, inferring a scenario in which some resources (not so valued up to now) will have a higher price in the medium term.15 In this context, many analysts indicate that future wars will most likely be over water and natural resources. For this reason, the preservation of natural reserves must be an obligation to take into account if the survival of future generations is to be ensured.
In this sense, caring for natural resources requires teamwork with the participation of all the actors involved. In this regard, Leopold stated that having an ethic that seeks to care for the environment is the result of an awareness that develops over time. This statement must be considered before starting any action since, for a working group to be able to deal with situations as complex as those that occur in the Peruvian Amazon, it is essential that they achieve perfect harmony between them to achieve the objectives set,16 mainly if the members of this work team are from different professions and represent institutions with different interests. Therefore, the progress of the Peruvian State to recover La Pampa must reflect a coordinated and sustained effort over time, which has the commitment and participation of all the actors involved; Otherwise, there is a high risk that when the Armed Forces withdraw from that area, they will return to the harmful starting scenario, mainly if the members of this work team are from different professions and represent institutions with different interests. Therefore, the progress of the Peruvian State to recover La Pampa must reflect a coordinated and sustained effort over time, which has the commitment and participation of all the actors involved; Otherwise, there is a high risk that when the Armed Forces withdraw from that area, they will return to the harmful starting scenario.
Reaction of the Peruvian State
Article 44 of the Political Constitution of Peru states that the primary duties of the State are: to guarantee the full validity of fundamental rights; protect the population from threats to their security; and promote the general well-being that is based both on justice and on the integral and balanced development of the Nation. To achieve this, Article 137 of the Magna Carta establishes that the President of the Republic, with the agreement of the Council of Ministers and reporting to Congress or the Permanent Commission, may decree – for a specified period – various states of exception in all or part of the national territory, thereby providing the legal framework for the establishment of security projects arranged by the State in defense of natural resources.
In this context, and due to the problems noted in the Amazon area of La Pampa, on February 18, 2019, the Peruvian Government declared a state of emergency in this area to combat the illegal activities that had been developing, and intervene in a holistic and coordinated manner. In this sense, the so-called “Comprehensive Plan against Illegal Mining in Madre de Dios‘ La Pampa ’- Multisectorial Intervention,” was formulated, which includes the following phases, some of which have already been implemented:
|Intervention||15 days||The operation of the Essential Public Services in Puerto Maldonado was ensured, while the Armed Forces supported the National Police of Peru (PNP) and the Public Ministry during the intervention in the urban area of ”La Pampa.” Likewise, people with requisition and those who were committing criminal acts were captured, as well as camps and clandestine environments used for illicit activities were destroyed.|
|Consolidation||06 months||146 military actions were carried out against illegal mining and related illegal activities, mainly in the “La Pampa” area, as well as in the Malinowski and Inambari rivers.|
|Consolidation and sustainability||2 years||At present, La Pampa area remains free of illegal mining due to the presence of the armed forces. However, the lack of intervention of the other Sectors of the State is evident.|
Various human, material and financial resources have been made available for these activities, the same which – with the necessary legal framework – are integrated into a multisectoral intervention plan.
Within this multisectoral effort, a part of the actors involved is responsible for providing Security and restoring Internal Order. This group is made up of the PNP, the Peruvian Army (through the 6th Special Forces Brigade, which carries out military actions in support of the PNP), and the Public Ministry (through the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Environmental Crimes). However, after more than two years of carrying out the first interventions, it should be noted that it is very difficult to maintain control of the area, due to its size, the difficult terrain and the meteorological conditions that arise.17 Likewise, these interventions are carried out both during the day and at night, using different means of transport – many of which are not the most suitable – which implies a high risk against the integral safety of the personnel who participate in these activities.18
Up to now, the results obtained show positive progress in the fight against illegal mining and other illegal activities, despite the difficult context in which it operates, requiring a systemic and holistic approach to generate continuous and sustained action. However, it is necessary for the Peruvian State to invest in the development of capacities of the public institutions that participate in the fight against these crimes, if it is to be truly effective. For example, the displacement of the 6th Special Forces Brigade to the La Pampa region, to carry out military actions in support of the National Police, has proven to be forceful in the fight against illegal activities taking place in that area; however, it is urgently required that the State invest in the development of capacities of these military forces if effectiveness is desired and expand the scope of its actions.
In that sense, some of the capabilities that this Army Brigade should develop, through the corresponding allocation of resources by the Peruvian State, are: the tracking, reconnaissance and follow-up capacity (based on IVR equipment for real-time satellite monitoring). and SPOT systems); mobility and protection capacity (based on permanent helimobile means and other means of transport and equipment for submersion in polluted waters); the ability to stay and control the territory (based on the construction of High Mobility Mixed Bases with material that provides protection, comfort and sustainability to the work carried out by the Armed Forces); the capacity for interoperability with other forces (based on the development of an awareness of ecosystem protection in all State institutions that improves the existing articulation and connects with other uncommitted institutions) and the capacity for predisposition and adaptability to change, since the fulfillment of new roles requires changes in the mentality of the members of the institution.
Organization of State institutions
The Comprehensive Plan Against Illegal Mining in Madre de Dios “La Pampa” (2018), proposes the coordinated work of various public institutions, organized in groups, to attack the complex problems existing in this geographical area from different angles, ensuring their sustainability in time to achieve the planned objectives, as shown in the following table:
|Security and Internal Order||MININTER, MINDEF, PUBLIC MINISTRY|
|Fuel Control||SUNAT, MINEM, OSINGERMIN, MTC, MEF|
|Protection of the rights and attention to the basic needs of families and vulnerable and at-risk populations||
MIMP, MIDIS, MINJUS, MINSA.
|Formalization of small and artisanal mining||MINEM, PRODUCE, MTPE y SUNAT|
|SERNAP, MINAM, PRODUCE, MINAGRI, MTC, DEVIDA, MTPE|
|Social programs||MIDIS, INDECI|
For the beginning of the strategy proposed by the Peruvian State, the first actions should be in charge of the Internal Security and Order Group, in order to eradicate illegal mining in the area known as La Pampa and permanently recover the affected territories. For this, three lines of action were conceived: the first one included the execution of coordinated operations between the Public Ministry, the PNP and the Armed Forces.; the second consisted of coordinated actions to eradicate crimes related to illegal mining; and the third contemplated actions to prevent the re-entry of illegal miners and armed groups, as well as the advance of this activity to unaffected areas. It should be noted that this last line of action continues to be one of the most difficult and challenging. On the other hand, the various actions of the Internal Order and Security Group have been based on two important axes. The first, of a legal nature when the state of emergency was declared in this region, and the second of an operational nature, by enabling the planning and execution of joint and combined military actions.
Although the Comprehensive Plan contemplated the intervention of various Sectors and public institutions as entities of social reactivation and sustainability after the project, until now, many of them have had – unfortunately – insufficient or null participation. Even some of those who were present in La Pampa for the start of operations, participating in the ceremony and in the corresponding photographs, have not been shown up again. This situation not only affects the execution and fulfillment of the objectives set forth in this “Comprehensive and Multisectoral Plan,” but also causes “the others” or “the usual ones” to be the ones who have to make a greater effort to achieve the established objectives, thus evidencing the teamwork and without protagonism of what was known as “the trinomial.”
The trinomial and its articulation
The implementation of the strategy to fight illegal mining in the buffer zone of the Tambopata National Reserve required having an intersectoral planning and execution team called the “Trinomio,” made up of the Public Ministry, the PNP and the Armed Forces. The members of this team managed to integrate and articulate the set of processes (before, during and after the actions), keeping a documented record of the interdiction operations carried out, as well as making constructive criticisms of the aspects to be optimized or corrected.
This articulation has led to the evidence of many positive aspects after the results of the permanent control exercised over this region. Among them, they stand out, in the first place, the honest and respectful conduct of the personnel who participated in these actions, which has avoided complaints or protests in the area of operations; second, the drastic decrease in deforestation in the region, particularly in the “La Pampa” area; thirdly, the improvement of the quality of the water of the Malinowsky River, and of that which is impounded in the “La Pampa” area; fourth, communication channels with local authorities have been tightened, as well as with the organizations that represent the miners of the area so that they know the work that the members of this trinomial carry out, urging them to carry out responsible mining and framed in the law. Therefore, this trinomial has not only represented an example of effort and integral work on the part of public institutions, but has also promoted and created connections, raising motivation and morale in an empathic way, respecting the functions and different organizational cultures to the achievement of the common goal.
The work of the State is fundamental for the preservation of the environment and the fight against illegal mining. This work requires not only a high degree of participation, involvement and integration of public institutions, but also the professional and ethical commitment of each of the officials involved.
The violation of protected areas can have irreversible consequences for the future of the nation and the normal balance of the planet. For this, the Peruvian government must integrate development and security plans in coordination with regional governments in order to generate jobs, create awareness among citizens and protect the ecosystem. In this sense, public policies must be oriented towards finding a comprehensive solution to face complex existing problems, within the framework of shared responsibility and joint work.
After two years of the start of the military actions in La Pampa, both the generation of doctrine and the development of training techniques for these actions are required, but, mainly, the Peruvian State is required to allocate the financial resources that allow the development of capabilities of the military forces that have been operating in this region, if it is desired to expand the scope and effectiveness of their actions.
1 Camilla Costa, “Destrucción del Amazonas: las principales amenazas para la mayor selva tropical del mundo en los 9 países que la comparten,” BBC NEWS(18 de febrero de 2020), https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-51377234 (accessed march 14, 2021)
2 Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), Amazonía, posible y sostenible,https://www.cepal.org/sites/default/files/news/files/folleto_amazonia_posible_y_sostenible.pdf (accessed march 12, 2021)
4 Romy Hecht, “Rachel Carson y su ataque a la verdolatría,” ARQ (Santiago, 2019), 50-63, https://scielo.conicyt.cl/pdf/arq/n103/0717-6996-arq-103-50.pdf
5 Rachel Carson, Primavera silenciosa (Barcelona: CRÍTICA, 2010), https://documen.site/download/primavera-silenciosa-el-jardin-del-libro_pdf
6 Agencia EFE, “Minam: Deforestación en Perú habría alcanzado 147,000 hectáreas en el 2019,” Gestión (january 30, 2021), https://gestion.pe/peru/minam-deforestacion-en-peru-habria-alcanzado-147000-hectareas-en-el-2019-noticia/?ref=gesr
7 Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project, “MAAP #61: La minería aurífera se reduce en la reserva nacional Tambopata,” MAAP (june 6, 2017), https://maaproject.org/2017/maap61_tambopata/ (accessed march 12, 2021).
8 Costa, “Destrucción del Amazonas: las principales amenazas para la mayor selva tropical del mundo en los 9 países que la comparten”.
9 Helen Gomero, La minería ilegal en los medios de comunicación nacionales y regionales: Un análisis comparativo de la cobertura radial del programa Ampliación de Noticias, de Radio Programas del Perú, y del Primero de la Región, de Radio Madre de Dios, durante la paralización de Madre de Dios en el 2015 (Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2018), Bachelor’s thesis..
10 Ministerio del Ambiente, La lucha por la legalidad en la actividad minera 2011-2016 (Lima: Minam, 2016), informa, https://sinia.minam.gob.pe/documentos/lucha-legalidad-actividad-minera-2011-2016-avances-concretos-retos
11 Elvis Mamani y Yony Ccallo, Minería ilegal y la interdicción del Estado en el sector minero mega 13 zona de amortiguamiento de la reserva nacional de Tambopata – Madre de Dios 2017 (Puno: Universidad Nacional Del Altiplano, 2018), Bachelor’s thesis.
12 Ministerio del Ambiente, Minería aurífera en Madre De Dios y contaminación con mercurio (Lima: Minam, 2011), informe, http://siar.minam.gob.pe/puno/sites/default/files/archivos/public/docs/mineria_aurifera_en_madre_de_dios.pdf (accessed march 10, 2021)
13 Miguel Angel Rodríguez, “El agua en medio de la pandemia,” Diario Correo (23 de marzo de 2021), https://diariocorreo.pe/opinion/el-agua-en-medio-de-la-pandemia-noticia/?ref=dcr (accessed march 5, 2021)
14 Aldo Leopold, “La naturaleza virgen,” Tratar de comprender tratar de ayudar, entrada de blog, http://tratarde.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/NATURALEZA-VIRGEN-Aldo-Leopold.pdf (accessed march 12, 2021)
15 Michael Hiltzik, “Column: Wall Street can now bet on the price of California water. Watch out,” Los Angeles Times (january 3, 2021). https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-01-03/wall-street-california-water-futures
16 Kwiatkowska, “Aldo Leopold y la Ética de la Tierra,”, 2
17 Manolo Eduardo, Capacidad operativa de la 6ta Brigada de Fuerzas Especiales en apoyo a la Policía Nacional del Perú durante la interdicción de la minería ilegal en el sector de La Pampa, Madre de Dios, 2019 (Lima: Escuela Superior de Guerra del Ejército, 2021), master’s thesis, http://repositorio.esge.edu.pe/handle/ESGEEPG/292 .