The Aug. 19 front-page article on small-scale gold mining in Peru, “From gold rush to ruin,” described the heartbreaking damage to the Amazon basin, but it failed to answer whether the crackdown will solve the problem. History shows that the answer is a resounding no.
Peru is among more than 70 countries where small-scale gold mining is practiced. Many governments have attempted to eradicate it through heavy police intervention, with generally no long-term reduction in mining. Miners rebuild or relocate.
Beyond an enforcement-only focus, the real solution, albeit more difficult, is more effective governance. Governments, in Peru and elsewhere, should bring miners into the formal economy, help them adopt less destructive and toxic mining practices, allowing them to make a living and, where possible, helping them find alternatives. This requires engaging with miners as legitimate stakeholders instead of as criminals and making a long-term commitment to maintaining a sustained presence in mining areas. This approach will take more time and resources than military action, but preserving the Amazon is worth the effort.
Susan Egan Keane, Washington
The writer is the deputy director of the health and environment program of the Natural Resources Defense Council.