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Photo gallery Peru cracks down on illegal gold mining

Wildcat mining has devastated large chunks of the Peruvian Amazon, where gold is extracted and makes its way to the refineries and banks in Switzerland. visited the southeastern region of Madre de Dios and spoke to artisanal miners who have benefited from the gold rush to educate their families and create jobs, as well as those who have fallen afoul of the law. 

In the past three decades, 960 square kilometres of forests were lost here to gold mining, according to The Center for Amazon Scientific Innovation. Military campaigns regularly take down illegal mining outposts, but miners soon resume their activities. The latest crackdown came in 2019 when the the Peruvian army backed by policemen launched Operation Mercury. 

At the same time, authorities are trying to incentivise formal mining by speeding up a certification scheme for miners who meet environmental and social standards. 

A major challenge for the gold industry, in which Swiss refiners play a pivotal role, is that shady gold traders in Peru mix legally-mined gold with gold extracted from illegal areas. Money-laundering and a lack of invoicing make for an untraceable supply chain. Swiss refiner Metalor left Peru after its main supplier there came under criminal investigation.

Read our in-depth investigation to learn more about how dirty gold from Peru ends up in Switzerland.

Special reports

Tales from Peru Why Switzerland struggles with dirty gold

With gold prices the highest they’ve been in nearly a decade, the quest for the precious metal is heating up in a remote area of Peru where mining and criminal activities overlap.

Switzerland, the world's hub for gold refining, is watching closely.

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