Madre de Dios River runs through Peru and Bolivia, into Brazil, where it changes names to Madeira River. Along this river gold mining activities have been expanding since the 1970s. Gold miners work in and along the same river, in a similar physical environment, but in completely different political environments.

In Peru, the gold has brought about many people to move into the Madre de Dios region. Andean people have joined with Amazon people in mining activities. This process accelerated because of the recently finished Interoceanic Road, which connects Brazil with the Pacific harbors in southern Peru. The region became more accessible.

There are continuous protests and conflicts between Peruvian government and the miners organizations in Madre de Dios. These grew after military and police interventions in October and November of 2011 and in the first half of 2012. The main reason for protest was a number of new decrees intended to formalize small-scale mining by organizing and concentrating gold mining in a territory called the ‘mining corridor’ and exclude mining in other areas. The Peruvian government lacks effective policies or measures, and instead answers with repressive interventions and unsuccessful negotiations. There is little progress with regard to formalization, and the situation in Madre de Dios remains tense.

In Bolivia, the situation is different. After 2005, mining has officially become a state-business. Natural resources are considered national patrimony. New concessions are only provided to Bolivian cooperatives or enterprises, and foreigners are excluded. The Bolivian Gold Company EBO, created in 2011, is the only legal buyer of gold. ADEMAF, Agency for Development of Macroregions and Border zones, has a mandate to instruct the military and the navy to search for illegal practices. Additionally, ADEMAF arranges ‘ambulant’ visits for health and civil registering services.

The governments of Peru and Bolivia use different means to control the small-scale gold miners. Time and research will give us more insights in the effects of these different approaches.

Read more:
Gold smuggled from Peru to Bolivia. 
Peruvian army destroys equipment of gold miners.