CINCIA research focuses on six districts in the regions of Cusco and Madre de Dios where gold mining has been occurring for decades. These regions include: Camanti-Quincemil, Huepetuhe, Madre de Dios, Inambari, Labyrinth, and Tambopata. These districts represents a wide range of elevations, climates, soils, and forest types, as well as different mining operations (artisanal, suction pumps, and heavy machinery) as well as social conditions (concessions, rural, native communities, and municipalities).
Camanti - Quincemil
Located on the border of Cusco and Madre de Dios, Camanti represents the highest level (650-1200 meters) of gold mining in the Amazon basin of Madre de Dios. All together, this district covers an area of 336,166 hectares.
The history of gold mining in Camanti dates back to the Incas and has been recorded by different historians as the center of gold mining operations at the time. This district borders the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve in the south, and includes several mining concessions, as well as native and rural communities where gold is extracted with heavy machinery.
The vegetation in this region varies from montane forests to humid tropical rainforests, with a high annual precipitation of at least 8,000 mm.
Huepetuhe is located in Madre de Dios and covers an area of 152,329 hectares. Huepethue is the most severely degraded region in the Amazon basin due to gold mining.
It has been estimated that at the peak of gold production in 1998, 2 percent of the world’s annual gold output may have come from Huepethue. In 2016, open-pit mining operations covered 14,337 hectares. This district also borders the native community of Barranco Chico, which reside in the southeast of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve.
The original vegetation corresponds to humid montane low tropical forest.
Inambari is located at 305 meters and has an annual rainfall of 2,500 mm. It’s main city, Mazuco, is an important point for trading gold and supplying the necessary supplies for the mining activities in the region.
The district covers an area of 484,653 hectares and also includes the area known as “La Pampa” which has become an epicenter of illegal gold mining. Mining operations in 2016 covered an area of 15,339 hectares and were carried out with suction pumps and heavy machinery.
Laberinto has an area of 267,642 hectares. Laberinto is an important port on the Madre de Dios River that serves as the base of operation for many mining communities in the surrounding area. This base thrives due to its ability to sell and purchase gold mining supplies and the sheer number of nearby shops that purchase gold.
Gold mining operations cover an area of 3,372 hectares. These operations are carried out almost exclusively with suction pumps along the channel and mainland forests of the Madre de Dios River. Laberinto was the first place in Madre de Dios where gold mining took place beginning in the 1950s-1960s.
Madre de Dios
Madre de Dios covers an area of 784,582 hectares. The district of Madre de Dios is one of the largest in the region. Its main city, Boca Colorado, is an important port with access to the Los Amigos River downstream and the Manu River upstream. Additionally, it serves as a point of resupply for important mining areas, such as Delta, which borders several native communities and the eastern boundary of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve.
In 2016, mining operations covered an area of 12,445 hectares. Mining operations include a mixture of river dredgers, suction pumps, and heavy machinery.
Tambopata covers an area of 2,069.362 hectares and is the largest district of the Madre de Dios region and is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Tambopata includes protected areas such as the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. More than 700 species of birds, 1,200 species of butterflies, 90 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 120 species of reptiles and amphibians, and an innumerable species of insects live in the region.
In the areas closest to Puerto Maldonado, the extraction of gold is carried out with suction pumps along the Madre de Dios River. These activities also take place in the native communities of Tres Islas and San Jacinto.
All together, mining operations covered an area of 1,766 hectares in 2016.