So much so that today there are many teachers and farmers who have abandoned the classrooms and unproductive fields to dedicate themselves to artisanal mining, he says. Oswaldo Tovar, former director of mining promotion and sustainability at Minem.

LOOK: Minister Vera: “We hope that (the march) does not take place”

There are more and more people who go to work in the mines. There are lawyers, engineers and people of all trades there because there is no work“, he points out Máximo Franco Bécquer, president of the National Confederation of Small Mining and Artisanal Mining of Peru (Confemin).

The economic recession is, certainly, one of the factors that encourages the gold rush in the country. But the most important, without a doubt, is the galloping gold metal pricewhich has climbed from US$400 to US$2,000 per ounce in the last 20 years (+400%).

This is a golden opportunity not only for artisanal miners in the process of formalizationbut also for illegal miners and the transnational criminal organizations (the Aragua Train, for example) who see this situation as a favorable opportunity to grow.

And an indirect consequence of informal mining activity is that “fuels the growth of a black market”says Tovar.

Artisanal mining, mostly informal, is growing in step with the escalation of the price of gold and the economic recession.

As long as the price of gold continues to rise, Peru will be like the Old West, where large numbers of people who do not have work will join the ranks of informal mining and illegal economies.” he notes Dante Vera, founding director of V&C Analistas.

How many people are we talking about? And of what weight in the economy?

Informal and illegal mining

The murder of ten collaborators of Powerful Miner at the hands of criminal gangs allied with illegal miners in the Pataz districtshocked all of Peru and brought to the fore the problem of illegal mining, the other (darker) side of informal mining.

And, contrary to what may commonly be assumed, illegal minery and informal mining They are not synonyms. They are separated, at least, by their attitude towards the formalization process.

Thus, we have that illegal miners are not interested in joining this dynamic. Furthermore, all of them are outside the law since they carry out operations in areas prohibited to mining activity.

For example, the miners of La Pampa (Madre de Dios) will never be formalized, because they occupy a Protected Natural Area (ANP). And the same happens with those who invade archaeological zones“, Explain Alberto Rojas, general director of mining formalization of Minem.

On the contrary, the informal miners either in the process of formalization They occupy areas that are allowed for mining, but that they have invaded (at least 64%).

Illegal mining carries out operations in areas prohibited to mining activity, such as natural areas, archaeological zones, cities or waterways.  This is the case of La Pampa, in Madre de Dios, a sensitive area, today depredated.

Illegal mining carries out operations in areas prohibited to mining activity, such as natural areas, archaeological zones, cities or waterways. This is the case of La Pampa, in Madre de Dios, a sensitive area, today depredated.

Precisely, to formalize their situation and avoid administrative and judicial penalties, in 2012 these miners joined the mining formalization process (extraordinary regime) initiated by Ollanta Humala and his Minister of the Environment, Manuel Pulgar-VidalWho had the lead in this case?“, Explain Jose Farfan, former general director of mining formalization of Minem.

Visible face of this formalization crusade is the Comprehensive Mining Formalization Registry (Reinfo)where 87,711 owners and associates (workers) have put their signature.

Are these all the artisanal miners who work in the country? The evidence says no.

Economic power

The analysis of official documents, such as Minem Statistical Yearbook 2022suggests that there are 200 thousand small and artisanal miners who work directly in the country.

This means that there are more than 100 thousand miners who have not registered in Reinfo and who are not doing anything to formalize themselves.”, says Dante Vera.

Other specialists try larger numbers. For example, José Farfán calculates that “There is a universe of 400 thousand workers who are not mapped in Reinfo”.

The production of gold from informal and illegal mining already exceeds that of formal mining.

The production of gold from informal and illegal mining already exceeds that of formal mining.

While Ismael Palomino, national coordinator of Confeminargues that there are 500 thousand Peruvians who ““They demand an opportunity to enter a formalization registry”among them, community members who work seasonally in the mining sector (two or three months) and people who are dedicated to recycling minerals, such as pallaqueros and chichiqueros.

There is no agreement on the number of informal (and illegal) miners who carry out productive activity in Peru, but what is clear is their enormous impact on gold production, something unimaginable until a few years ago.

Five months ago, in Perumin 36Dante Vera pointed out that non-formal mining was responsible for 39.3% of national gold production: 63 tons, according to 2022 numbers.

As of November 2023, however, that proportion has increased to 43%, according to statistics from the BCRand up to 56% according to Confemin calculations.

This, including the contribution that small and artisanal mining makes to large and medium-sized mining, since “no less than half of Minera Poderosa’s production, as well as a third of Marsa’s and Consorcio Minero Horizonte’s production, come from miners registered with Reinfo“, indicates Farfán.

Along these lines, Confemin estimates that artisanal miners move about US$6 billion or 2% of national GDPvery apart “of the 50 tons of gold that are smuggled to Bolivia”.

Informal miners (workers) usually do not receive a salary in money but in gold.  They are not processed or mapped in Reinfo.

Informal miners (workers) usually do not receive a salary in money but in gold. They are not processed or mapped in Reinfo.

This with the law against, with the police against, with everyone against, but with our own investment“, indicates Máximo Franco Becquer.

Mining formalization

And, 12 years after the mining formalization process began, the Government continues to look askance at this growing segment of the population that mobilizes large masses, that builds entire cities (such as Harvestwith a population of 30 thousand inhabitants) and which causes, it is also fair to say, conflicts with formal mining operations.

It is the case of The Bambas (Apurímac), which is currently struggling to expand its operations due to the interference of informal copper miners, who “They intend to keep the concession to exploit the mineral in an artisanal way”warns Dante Vera.

And this is also the case of the projects The Chancas (Southern Copper) and Saint Anthony (Sumitomo), in Apurímac, where mining owners cannot enter to carry out exploration activities because their concessions are invaded by informal miners.

In light of all this, it is worth asking: What became of the mining formalization process launched with great fanfare by the government of Ollanta Humala with the objective, precisely, of organizing the field and avoiding potential conflicts?

All the specialists consulted for this report are unanimous in pointing out that the mining formalization process initiated by Ollanta Humala and Manuel Pulgar Vidal has failed, despite the efforts deployed by Minem.

Illegal and informal miners have invaded the Las Bambas concessions to exploit the copper for their benefit.

Illegal and informal miners have invaded the Las Bambas concessions to exploit the copper for their benefit.

The figures are eloquent. According to official statistics, only a few have been formalized to date. 2 thousand mining holders (Reinfos) that bring together nearly 9,500 members (mining workers). In total 11,500 formalized miners, according to official Government notation.

We are talking, following this same logic, of just 2% of the 500 thousand informal miners that swarm in the 25 regions of the country.

And the remaining 98%? What card does the Government have up its sleeve to formalize this enormous segment of the population when there are less than eleven months left for the process to conclude?

The Reinfo

The solution should be Reinfo, where 87,771 miners are registered in the formalization process. The truth, however, is that only 15,411 are meeting the established requirements, according to Minem.

The remaining 72,160 miners (with suspended registration) are the subject of a purification process to validate their identity and prevent them from serving as a trap for illegal miners who would have the habit of using Reinfo as a Patent of corso to commit a crime.

To this end, the Government published on December 21, 2023 the DL-1607 which grants a period of 90 days to miners with suspended registration “so that it can catch up with the basic requirements that Reinfo poses”refers Pablo de la Flor, Corporate Affairs Manager of Minera Poderosa.

Nearly 20,000 artisanal miners marched in Lima on January 22.  They will do it again on March 11 and 12 in greater numbers.

Nearly 20,000 artisanal miners marched in Lima on January 22. They will do it again on March 11 and 12 in greater numbers.

As expected, this initiative triggered the reaction of the small and artisanal miners who on January 22 marched through the streets of the Center of Lima, numbering 20 thousand, expressing their discontent.

What are they requesting? Ismael Palomino, national coordinator of Confeminmaintains that its associates do not seek the expansion of the Reinfo, but only that the Law 31388 (from December 31, 2021) which extends the mining formalization process until December 31, 2024.

We no longer want any more expansions or patches to Reinfo, because it has failed. What we want is for DL ​​1607 to be repealed, because it curtails the formalization process. And we want that period of time (until December 31, 2024) to be used to discuss and prepare a Small Mining and Artisanal Mining Law, in order to visualize what the future of this activity will be from January 2025.″, explains Palomino.

To achieve these objectives, the artisanal miners are preparing a new march to Lima on March 11 and 12.

This march, Máximo Franco specifies, will be carried out by the entire productive chain generated by artisanal mining, including engineers, lawyers, mechanics, nurses, pharmacists and tradesmen. In total, about 40 thousand people, at least.

If they are not listened to, they will begin an indefinite national strike from March 13.



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