Boca Pariamanu (Peru) (AFP)
"Our fear is that it destroys our forest": in Amazonia, gold washing jeopardizes the balance of the forest and the lives of indigenous communities, who must also face the threat of oil extraction.
In the village of Boca Pariamanu, in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, the Amahuaca Indians are enjoying a victory because after years of conflict with Amazon nut farmers, the community managed to revalidate in June its title over 4,400 hectares of forest.
This title is fundamental "to be able to supervise the territory and not to be invaded by the illegal mines, the cutting of clandestine trees", explains Julio Rolin, at the head of this village of a hundred inhabitants accessible after two hours of car and boat from Puerto Maldonado, the capital of the department of Madre Dios (southeast).
The Amahuaca (about 250 people) are one of the 38 indigenous communities of this Amazonian department, considered the most affected by the ravages of mines and mercury pollution used for gold mining. Peru is the fifth largest gold producer in the world.
"Mines contaminate the water, there are no more fish, and it destroys the ugly forest," says Adela Aguirre, a 23-year-old mother, who says she fears the mines will be 'to his peaceful community.
According to Fenamad, an organization that federates the indigenous peoples of Madre Dios, the local government has granted mining concessions to the territories of 11 of the 38 local Indian communities.
- Mud craters -
Because the Peruvian legislation provides that the subsoil remains the property of the State that can decide to grant mining or petroleum concessions where it wishes.
"We demand that in the territories of indigenous peoples, we can not grant rights to third parties," defends Julio Cusurichi, president of Fenamad.
According to the authorities, in Madre de Dios, 11,000 hectares of forest were deforested in 2017, out of a total of 156,000 that year, the worst year since 2014, according to official figures.
You only have to cross the Pariamanu River to see huge expanses of deforested forests and craters of mud left by the miners. In the distance is the purring of machines that dig the ground without respite.
Faced with soaring illegal mining facilities, the government decided in February to send the army to dismantle La Pampa, emerged ex-nihilo in 2008, at the height of the global economic crisis, when the demand for gold was at the highest.
But this does not reassure the local communities: "They have 30,000 inhabitants, where will they go? They will go to other areas of indigenous territories," Julio Cusurichi fears.
- Strong pressure from the state -
On the other side of the border, in the territory of Tacanas (340,000 hactares), in the Bolivian Amazon, it is the future oil exploration supported by the government that worries the inhabitants.
President Evo Morales, who will seek a fourth term in October, is supporting a mining project that will extract 50 million barrels of oil and natural gas.
"We could have said no (to this project), but there has been very strong pressure from the state, very strong threats," says Rolando Justiniano, head of territory Tacana II, which has four villages, only accessible by boat.
Prospecting began in 2018 after three years of tough negotiations between the Tacanas and the national oil company YPFB.
Tacana II has obtained nearly $ 500,000 compensation for the environmental consequences caused by prospecting, or $ 500 for each thousand inhabitants.
But this money "will not compensate for the wealth we have on our territory," said Rolando Justiniano, visibly concerned.
The community is now happy to have managed to protect Amazonian walnut trees, which are over 50 meters high. The gathering of the walnut is for them a source of income between January and April.
© 2019 AFP