Over the last two months, dozens of suspected illegal gold miners causing terrible environmental damage in the Peruvian Amazon were caught with the help of the ForestLink smartphone app developed by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK).
The law enforcement operations were conducted over several weeks near the villages of Palma Real, Barranco Chico and Boca Pariamanu, all in the Madre de Dios region, which is home to one of the world’s most biodiverse rainforests.
Acting on information supplied by indigenous community monitors via ForestLink, local police identified a total of around 40 miners who were using heavy machinery and dangerous chemicals as they illegally dredged for gold and destroyed streambeds on tributaries of the Amazon river. RFUK estimates that, in one raid alone, over £1 million worth of illegal mining equipment was seized and destroyed by the Peruvian authorities.
“This is one of the biggest interventions our ForestLink app has ever supported,” explains RFUK’s Senior Programme Coordinator for Peru and the Andean Amazon, Aldo Soto. “Illegal gold mining has become totally out of control over the last decade, turning this biodiverse rainforest into a 'Wild West' of environmental destruction. But as we’ve seen in recent weeks, indigenous groups are becoming empowered to push back.”
With support from RFUK and indigenous organisation Federación Nativa del Rio Madre de Dios y Afluentes (FENAMAD), the two interventions were organised swiftly and in collaboration with several national bodies, including an environmental police task force, forestry and wildlife officials and a special environmental prosecutor.
Illegal gold mining has become one of the main drivers of deforestation in Made de Dios, with many indigenous communities overwhelmed by an unprecedented level of environmental destruction, including the contamination of nearby rivers used for drinking water and local fishing.
“To be indigenous is to be related to nature and the forest. Lose that lose your own essence,” said FENAMAD’s President, Julio Cusurichi. “Community monitors are reporting more and more mining activities using ForestLink, and the collaboration with the local authorities has proven to be very positive. Together we are stopping forest destruction in Madre de Dios.”
RFUK’s ForestLink app was developed in 2015 to help local communities and civil society organisations report on illegal activities causing deforestation in and around their ancestral lands. The system was first tested in Peru’s Made de Dios region in 2016 in partnership with FENAMAD. Already this year, alerts sent via ForestLink have led to multiple police interventions and arrests across Madre de Dios.
*RFUK’s RTM project in Peru is supported by the Waterloo Foundation, Fondation Ensemble, Rainforest Fund, Network for Social Change, and with support from public donations. For more information on the project, click here.