Peru is currently ranked as the 6th largest gold producer in the world. This is very significant when you consider than it is much smaller in landmass than most of the countries that rank above it. The Andes Mountains have some of the richest gold deposits in the world.
Gold mining in Peru has also come under extreme scrutiny in recent years. Concerns over unregulated mining practices have caused significant conflict within the country, as mining has had a direct effect on the sensitive ecosystem of the region. Many of the residence in Peru live in extreme poverty, dependent on the natural resources around their high mountain villages to sustain them. With the increased gold price in recent years, many work the mines in hopes of extracting a few grams of placer gold
per week to sustain their families.
In contrast to the local residents of many residents in the country, Peru has attracted significant attention from large mining companies. The Yanacocha Gold Mine is operated by the Newmont Mining Corporation in Northern Peru. It is the second largest open pit gold mine in the world, and has produced over $7 billion dollars’ worth of gold. The mining operation has been plagued with conflict for over a decade, as local residents have complained of contamination to local waterways. The mine uses cyanide leaching to extract gold from tailings, and mercury contamination has also been a concern. Local villagers insist that the impacts on wildlife, plants, and livestock have been severe.
The Yanacocha Mine is just one of numerous operations across the country. With limited regulation, there are many mines operating across the country that are using less than ideal mining methods. Use of cyanide, mercury, and elevated lead levels have been a major concern to residents.
Despite the conflict and difficulties that have plagued the mining industry in Peru, it still remains a major player among the world’s mineral producers. Much of Peru’s gold also comes as a byproduct of its many polymetallic mines. Placer deposits can also be found throughout the Andes as well as the rivers that flow through the jungles. An undocumented amount of gold is also found by thousands of artisanal miners throughout the country, who extract relatively small amounts of gold using simple prospecting methods
. Many mid-sized operations are also taking place throughout the country, most of which are unregulated and do not report their gold production.
The future of gold mining in Peru is far from certain. While the country is still retains some of the richest mineral wealth in the world, chaotic conditions have led to much uncertainty in the region. A combination of illegal gold mining practices which have caused pollution and degradation of the fragile rainforest ecosystem in much of the country is yet to play out completely. Government corruption also plays a part in this story. Many of the large mining operations in the country have been under protest by locals with concerns over contamination. Violence has been rampant in many parts of the country. As with any gold rush, everyone is trying to find their share of the wealth.
How all of this will play out over the coming years is yet to be seen. The gold bearing region of Peru has much potential, and the country has the opportunity to improve its economic standing if miners are allowed to tap into these gold resources in a productive way, while at the same time following a regulatory framework that protects the sensitive ecosystem in the country. As the 6th largest gold producer in the world, Peru’s potential as a leading mineral producer remains strong.