Illegal Gold Miners Deforest and Pollute the Tambopata National Reserve

One of Peru’s gems, the Tambopata National Reserve is under threat by the scourge of Madre de Dios, illegal and informal gold mining.  Despite government efforts to stop mining’s advance into the Reserve, recent satellite photos reveal miners have continued to cross the Malinowski River and decimate the reserve’s forest.

For some time miners have been working on the other side of the Malinowski River which marks the Reserve’s boundary, as they have in other parts of Madre de Dios Department.  Miners work surface deposits of fluvial gold using mercury to separate the gold, releasing the toxic metal into river waters and contaminating riverine environments. They also cut down the forest and leave large surface areas denuded and poisoned as they move on.


Illegal Gold Miners Deforest Tambopata Reserve
Illegal Gold Miners Deforest Tambopata Reserve

Between 2013 and early 2015, miners had expanded mining in the Reserve’s buffer zone along the Malinowski River, despite laws prohibiting mining in the region, and had deforested deforested 864 hectares in the upper Malinowski as well ad 1711 hectares in La Pampa which borders the Reserve on the same river, according to a report by MAAP (Monitoring the Andean Amazon Project).(1)  On November 22, 2015, the same organization related miners had recently crossed the river into the Tambopata National Reserve and begun mining based on high resolution satellite images.(2)

The Peruvian daily El Comercio announced that, in response to these reports, on Thursday, January 21st “authorities entered the zone denominated as A7, in Tambopata, and destroyed machinery and fuel valued at 1,500,000/S. This is the first time an interdiction of mining is carried out within a National Reserve.” (3)


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Nevertheless, on April 12, 2016 the MAAP announced that illegal mining continued to expand aggressively in La Pampa, within the Buffer Zone adjacent to the reserve, leading to the deforestation of 130 new hectares and to the formation of a “major mining camp.” (1) Also on April 12th, the MAAP reported miners had crossed the Malinowski River and begun mining directly in the Reserve in late 2015 and their activity within the Reserve continues strongly. (4)

Inforegion claims “around 2,000 miners work illegally in the Reserve and have more that 150 operational motors on the banks of the Malinoski River. . . . Within the Reserve have been installed two camps named Panterita and Fofoca in which materials for mining as well as petrochemicals are sold and where it seems bars and networks of prostitution are already operational.” (5)

The Tambopata National Reserve faces a severe threat to its integrity.


  1. Finer M, Olexy T (2016) Deforestation Continues Expansion in La Pampa (buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve). MAAP: 31.
  2. Finer M, Novoa S, Snelgrove C, Peña N (2015) Confirming an Illegal Gold Mining Invasion of the Tambopata National Reserve (Madre de Dios, Peru) [High-Resolution View]. MAAP #21.
  3. Francesca García Delgado, Realizan primera interdicción minera en una reserva nacional, El Comercio, January 24, 2016. 
  4. Finer M, Novoa S, Olexy T (2016) Invasion of Tambopata National Reserve Intensifies. MAAP: 30.
  5. Minería ilegal genera daños en Reserva Nacional de Tambopata, Inforegión, March 4, 2016.


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