Peru Congress repeals measure fought by small-scale gold miners

By Thomson Reuters Mar 14, 2024 | 10:40 AM

By Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) – Peru’s Congress has knocked down legislation that threatened to shut down thousands of small-scale mine operations, a move that comes after days of fierce protests from artisanal miners in the major gold producer and global No. 2 copper producing nation.

In a plenary session on Wednesday night, the legislature annulled a government measure applied late last year that set a March 21 deadline for small-scale miners to present a valid mining contract or mining concession, otherwise they would be removed from a national program to formalize small mining operations.

Peru has for years been trying to formalize small-scale gold miners, amid growing international pressure to shed light on the supply chain of the precious metal in South America’s top producer. Tensions with big copper miners had also been rising.

The legislation had also granted police more powers to act against small artisanal mines where there was evidence of illegal possession of explosives, amid reports by authorities of clashes and attacks by illegal miners that have left more than twenty people dead in the last two years.

Small-scale gold miners in Peru often operate unlawfully or with little oversight. They have been spreading into copper also as prices of the red metal have climbed.

Peru produced 99.7 million fine grams of gold in 2023, 2.8% higher than the previous year. Artisan mines extract around 40% of the mineral, according to the government, while industry representatives claim that figure stands at 50%.

“If this law is not repealed, we will go on strike and protest indefinitely,” Maximo Becker, president of the National Confederation of Small Miners and Artisanal Miners of Peru (Confemin), told Reuters this week at a protest.

The leader said that his union groups some 500,000 small-scale miners in the country, while about 85,000 are registered for the formalization program.

Mining is key to Peru’s economy, with 60% of the Andean nation’s exports coming from the mining sector, mostly copper.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Steven Grattan; Editing by Marguerita Choy)