The heartbreaking history of the women who work in Peru's illegal gold mines

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Illegal Mines Eradicated in Peru


While some gold mines have been eradicated, Peru's gold mines are still a huge part of the country's culture and economy. At a mere three miles above sea level, working in this environment is extremely dangerous, with temperatures that dip below freezing and limited access to hygienic practices. Thus, unregulated employment is very common in this environment, specifically for people who reside in La Rinconada.

Because of long-standing superstitions that are a part of Peruvian culture, only men are allowed to work in the mines. Women are left with the awful situation of digging for leftover gold that comes along with the waste that is taken away from the gold mine site.

Peruvian culture refers to these women as pallaqueras -- or the Daughters of Awichita -- named after the god who keeps the miners protected.

Peruvian photographer Omar Lucas had the chance to visit La Rinconda, and he spoke to VICE about his experience.

When VICE asked him why women weren't legally allowed to work in the mines Lucas said, "There is a belief that the gold will disappear if they do.

While other parts of the world are facing gender equality and gender pay gap issues, this specific issue in Peru is very unique and it definitely generates future conversation about gender equality in Peruvian culture.

See the gallery of photos below for a glimpse into the wasteland that has resulted from the gold mines in Peru:

114 PHOTOS
Illegal Gold Mining's Wasteland - Peruvian Rainforest
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The heartbreaking history of the women who work in Peru's illegal gold mines
This Nov. 11, 2014 aerial photo, shows a deforested area dotted with tarps, marking the area where miners reside, and water-filled craters caused by illegal gold mining, in La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Illegal gold mining has rendered virgin Peruvian rainforest ten times the size of Manhattan into a pocked, scarred wasteland over the past decade. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 11, 2014 photo, policemen stand guard on the perimeter of a crater created by gold mining during an occupation of an illegal gold mining camp as part of an operation to eradicate the camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into the southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. In addition to contributing to deforestation, the illegal alluvial gold mining contaminates the jungle with tons of mercury. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 16, 2014 photo, mining equipment destroyed by security forces lies abandoned in the crater of an illegal gold mining process, in La Pampa, in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. The Andean country is working to root out wildcat miners whose toil has left a huge scar of denuded Amazon rainforest. Peru's environment minister says the country loses hundreds of square miles a year to deforestation. The South American country is hosting U.N.-sponsored climate talks that began on Dec. 1. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, a policeman sits on a log at an illegal mining camp burned to the ground as part of an operation to eradicate illegal mining in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into the southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. The operations have displaced thousands of the estimated 40,000 people who authorities say moved to the jungle to mine gold. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 11, 2014 photo, policemen stand guard on the perimeter of a crater created by gold mining activities in La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Peru sent a battalion of police into its southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining camps, just weeks before the global climate talks that the country is hosting. Even before the officers began blasting away at miners' makeshift shelters, the Amazon rainforest nearby looked like a war-scape, pocked with craters and littered with the trunks of amputated trees.(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 21, 2014 photo, a web of tubes lead into a lagoon from which water is siphoned as they seek to rescue a stranded bulldozer at a mining camp in Huepetuhe in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Illegal gold mining has rendered virgin Peruvian rainforest ten times the size of Manhattan into a pocked, scarred wasteland over the past decade in the region. Peru's stewardship of it's forests, as host of this year’s Dec. 1-12 U.N. climate conference, has come under question. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This Nov. 11, 2014 aerial photo, shows a deforested area dotted with blue tarps, marking the area where miners reside, and craters filled with water, caused by illegal gold mining activities, in La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. In addition to contributing to deforestation, the illegal alluvial gold mining contaminates the jungle with tons of mercury. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 20, 2014 photo, a column of policemen occupy a gold mining camp as part of an operation to eradicate illegal mining in La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Peru sent a battalion of police into its southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining camps, just weeks before the global climate talks that it is hosting. Even before the officers began blasting away at miners' makeshift shelters, the Amazon rainforest nearby looked like a war-scape, pocked with craters and littered with the trunks of amputated trees. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, a miner walks through an illegal gold mining camp scorched by authorities as part of an operation to eradicate illegal mining in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into the southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. The operations have displaced thousands of the estimated 40,000 people who authorities say moved to the jungle to mine gold. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
AP10ThingsToSee - A column of policemen occupy a gold mining camp as part of an operation to eradicate illegal mining in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region, Nov. 12, 2014. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 21, 2014 photo, a backhoe used for mining stands idle in a crater after it was put out of commission by security forces in April, in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. In a surprise April raid, about 1,500 police and troops dynamited $20 million worth of heavy machinery as Peru's government dialed up a crackdown on illegal gold mining that has badly scarred the ecologically rich southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios.(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This Nov. 11, 2014 aerial photo shows a deforested area dotted with tarps, marking the area where miners reside, and water-filled craters, caused by illegal gold mining activities, in La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Peru sent a battalion of police into its southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining camps, just weeks before the country hosts global climate talks. Even before the officers began blasting away at miners' makeshift shelters, the Amazon rainforest nearby looked like a war-scape, pocked with craters and littered with the trunks of amputated trees. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, policemen run to board a helicopter, after taking part in an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into the southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Peru first criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only began enforcing the law vigorously this year with serious manpower and explosives. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 28, 2014 photo, miners build a "tolba," a rustic sluice-like contraption layered with pieces of carpet to capture the gold deposits from sediment, in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Illegal gold mining has rendered virgin Peruvian rainforest into a pocked, scarred wasteland over the past decade. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, policemen use their shields to protect themselves from dust clouds stirred by a landing helicopter, after taking part in an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into the southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Peru first criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only began enforcing the law vigorously this year with serious manpower and explosives. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 21, 2014 photo, men who mine for gold using a rustic technique known as "chiquiquiar" stop to eat lunch in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. After a government crackdown on illegal mining companies in April, the miners who stayed behind are reduced to rudimentary gold extraction using pickaxes, shovels and small motors. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 16, 2014 photo, a miner salvages a piece of equipment after a police raid, in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Illegal gold mining is not the biggest threat to Peru’s rainforest. That comes from small-scale agriculture by poor migrants from the Andean country’s highlands, says Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal. Illegal logging and palm oil plantations also eat away at the rainforest. Mercury is a toxin and has already contaminated the food chain, including fish, the local population's main protein source. The country loses hundreds of square mile a year to deforestation. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, flames and plumes of black smoke rise over an illegal gold mining camp after authorities set fire to motorcycles and gasoline used by the miners, as part of an operation to eradicate illegal mining in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Police destroyed motors and dynamited a dozen motorcycles as they tore down dwellings that included at least one mud-flanked bordello. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This Nov. 11, 2014 aerial photo, shows a deforested area dotted with blue tarps, marking the area where miners reside, and craters filled with water, caused by illegal gold mining activities, in La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. In addition to contributing to deforestation, the illegal alluvial gold mining contaminates the jungle with tons of mercury. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd
This May 24, 2014 photo, a miner operates a rustic hydraulic mining machine, known locally as a "caranchera" while mining for gold in the Madre de Dios river, near Paraiso, in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Illegal gold mining has rendered virgin Peruvian rainforest ten times the size of Manhattan into a pocked, scarred wasteland over the past decade. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A vast area of land is seen with permanent ecological damage due to surface gold mining, near the village of Nueva in Puerto Maldonado, in what has been considered the Peruvian capital of biodiversity, some 1,660 kilometres (995 miles) southeast of Lima on October 2, 2014. In a few years, illegal mining has wiped out about 58.000 hectares of forested areas, poisoning rivers with 30 to 40 tons of mercury being dumped into its basins every year. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
In this May 21, 2014 photo, a man mines for gold using a rustic technique known as "chiquiquiar" in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. This nearly half-century-old Amazon boomtown has gone bust, with thousands leaving since the government halted gasoline shipments in April and sent troops to destroy heavy machinery used in illegal mining. Thousands have left Huepetuhe since the government halted gasoline shipments in April and sent troops to destroy heavy machinery used in mining that it deemed illegal. The miners who stayed behind are reduced to rudimentary gold extraction using pickaxes, shovels and small motors. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 28, 2014 photo, a boy leans against a tube that is part of a rustic type of hydraulic jet known locally as a "chupadera," at a makeshift mining camp in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Illegal gold mining is not the biggest threat to Peru’s rainforest. That comes from small-scale agriculture by poor migrants from the Andean country’s highlands, says Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal. Illegal logging and palm oil plantations also eat away at the rainforest. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, policemen run to board a helicopter, after taking part in an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into the southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Peru first criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only began enforcing the law vigorously this year with serious manpower and explosives. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, policemen use their shields to protect themselves from dust clouds stirred by a landing helicopter, after taking part in an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into the southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Peru first criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only began enforcing the law vigorously this year with serious manpower and explosives. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, a charred kettle sits on top of a scorched makeshift stove in an illegal gold mining camp, set ablaze by police as part of an operation to eradicate the illegal mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Police destroyed motors and dynamited a dozen motorcycles as they tore down dwellings that included at least one mud-flanked bordello. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, policemen eat lunch at a makeshift base, after taking part in an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. In addition to contributing to deforestation, the illegal alluvial gold mining contaminates the jungle with tons of mercury. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, a miner looks at a motorcycle destroyed by fire in an illegal gold mining camp, set ablaze by police as part of an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. The operations have displaced thousands of the estimated 40,000 people who authorities say moved to the jungle to mine gold. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, policemen wait to be airlifted back to their main base, after taking part in an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into the southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Peru’s anti-illegal mining czar, retired army Gen. Augusto Soto, marched the men to the wasteland known as La Pampa, where 50,000 hectares of rainforest have been obliterated in the past six years. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, small scale gold miners stand looking at the remains of their mining camp, scorched by authorities as part of an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Peru first criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only began enforcing the law vigorously this year with serious manpower and explosives. The operations have displaced thousands of the estimated 40,000 people who authorities say moved to the jungle to mine gold. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, a small scale miner moves on with his belongings, after authorities scorched his mining camp, as part of an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into the southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. The operations have displaced thousands of the estimated 40,000 people who authorities say moved to the jungle to mine gold. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This Nov. 11, 2014 aerial photo, shows a deforested area dotted with blue tarps, marking the area where miners reside, and craters filled with water, caused by illegal gold mining activities, in La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. In addition to contributing to deforestation, the illegal alluvial gold mining contaminates the jungle with tons of mercury. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, a spray-painted message from small scale miners to police reads in Spanish; "Do not steal, please," on a green cloth serving as a wall at an illegal mining camp, seized and destroyed by police in an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Peru first criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only began enforcing the law vigorously this year with serious manpower and explosives. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 11, 2014 photo, two soldiers look at a drone, used by the Peruvian Air Force to track illegal mining activity, as they prepare for an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Peru’s anti-illegal mining czar, retired army Gen. Augusto Soto, marched the men to the wasteland known as La Pampa, where 50,000 hectares of rainforest have been obliterated in the past six years. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 11, 2014 photo, a policeman tosses a tarp onto a bonfire at an illegal gold mining camp they occupied in an operation to eradicate illegal mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. They destroyed motors and dynamited a dozen motorcycles as they tore down dwellings. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 11, 2014 photo, policemen rest in an illegal gold mining camp they occupied in an operation to eradicate illegal mining in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Peru’s anti-illegal mining czar, retired army Gen. Augusto Soto, marched his men to the wasteland known as La Pampa, where 50,000 hectares of rainforest have been obliterated in the past six years. In addition to contributing to deforestation, the illegal alluvial gold mining contaminates the jungle with tons of mercury.(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 11, 2014 photo, a policeman begins to rip apart a tarp advertising restroom and shower services for the "Hotel Hellen," set up in an illegal gold mining camp, occupied in an operation to eradicate illegal mining in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Police destroyed motors and dynamited a dozen motorcycles as they tore down dwellings that included at least one mud-flanked bordello. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 11, 2014 photo, a policeman takes a nap on a wooden slat, in an illegal gold mining camp after it was occupied in a police operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 22, 2014 photo, a miner carries a bucket and shovel as he arrives to mine for gold in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. After a government crackdown on illegal mining companies in April, the miners who stayed behind are reduced to rudimentary gold extraction using pickaxes, shovels and small motors. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 22, 2014 photo, a woman sells flowers in an empty street at mining camp in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. The nearly half-century-old Peruvian Amazon boomtown has gone bust with the government’s recent crackdown on illegal gold mining. "We are nearly a town without people” said Mayor Marco Ortega. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 22, 2014 photo, men mine for gold using a rudimentary technique known as "chiquiquiar" in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. After a government crackdown on illegal mining companies in April, the miners who stayed behind are reduced to rudimentary gold extraction using pickaxes, shovels and small motors. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 21, 2014 photo, a miner with a pickaxe digs for gold using a rustic technique known as "chiquiquiar" in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. After a government crackdown on illegal mining companies in April, the miners who stayed behind have been reduced to rudimentary gold extraction using pickaxes, shovels and small motors. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 21, 2014 photo, two-month-old Snyder Macedo wakes up under a tent set up by his parents not far from where they mine for gold in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Snyder's father, Joel Macedo, had been earning $1,071 dollars a month as a heavy machinery operator before the government crackdown on illegal mining companies. Macedo said he now struggles to earn a quarter of that, and his wife now pitches in. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 21, 2014 photo, men who mine for gold using a rustic technique known as "chiquiquiar" stop to eat lunch in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. After a government crackdown on illegal mining companies in April, the miners who stayed behind are reduced to rudimentary gold extraction using pickaxes, shovels and small motors. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 21, 2014 photo, vegetables for sale lay outside a shuttered shop that used to buy gold, after a government crackdown on illegal gold mining in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. “The economy has collapsed,” said Mayor Marco Ortega. “The gold buyers, the hardware stores, hostels and all kinds of businesses have shut down. We are nearly a town without people.” (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 21, 2014 photo, a once busy road used by gold miners is empty after a government crackdown on illegal mining in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. The government gave informal miners until April 19 to formalize any claims they might have, but the vast majority didn’t have any. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 21, 2014 photo, Joel Macedo, 25, and his wife Nilda mine for gold without the use of machinery in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Maceda had been earning $1,071 dollars a month as a heavy machinery operator before the government crackdown on illegal mining companies. The father of two says he now struggles to earn a quarter of that, and his wife now pitches in. “She works with me because we have nothing to eat,” he said. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 21, 2014 photo, a miner with an axe digs for gold using a rustic technique known as "chiquiquiar" in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. After a government crackdown on illegal mining companies in April, the miners who stayed behind are reduced to rudimentary gold extraction using pickaxes, shovels and small motors. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 20, 2014 photo, a sex worker waits for customers at a bar in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. With the government’s recent crackdown on illegal gold mining, the brothels that flank a broad mud flat of mining runoff are now all but idle, as are most of the town’s nearly 16 gas stations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 20, 2014 photo, the children of people connected to the gold mining community watch a circus in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. The nearly half-century-old Peruvian Amazon boomtown has gone bust with the government’s recent crackdown on illegal gold mining. Mayor Marco Ortega estimates only about 3,000 townspeople remain. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 20, 2014 photo, the Joyliba family returns home after mining for gold in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. After a government crackdown on illegal mining companies in April, the miners who stayed behind are reduced to rudimentary gold extraction using pickaxes, shovels and small motors. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A dog rests on a area that used to be lush tropical jungle, deforested by illegal mining in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Rooms mostly used by miners are seen at a makeshift hotel in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Saturday, May 17, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A man fills his motorcycle tank at an informal shop due to the shortages the government imposed to crackdown on illegal mining in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A waiter walks amid posters that decorate a restaurant in Sarayacu in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A miner dismantles a "tolba", a rustic sluice-like contraption layered with pieces of carpet to capture the gold deposits from sediment, in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A gold miner eats breakfast as he take cover from the rain in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Miners build a "tolba", a rustic sluice-like contraption layered with pieces of carpet to capture the gold deposits from sediment, in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Miners build a "tolba", a rustic sluice-like contraption layered with pieces of carpet to capture the gold deposits from sediment, in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Miners build a "tolba", a rustic sluice-like contraption layered with pieces of carpet to capture the gold deposits from water sediment, in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Miners build a "tolba", a rustic sluice-like contraption layered with pieces of carpet to capture the gold deposits from water sediment, in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A miner stands in the crater used to mine for gold in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Workers reapair engines used for gold mining in La Pampa, in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Saturday, May 17, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A bra lays on the ground outside a bar after a government crackdown on the illegal mining camp in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 16, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This Nov. 11, 2014 aerial photo, shows a deforested area dotted with blue tarps, marking the area where miners reside, and craters filled with water, caused by illegal gold mining activities, in La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. In addition to contributing to deforestation, the illegal alluvial gold mining contaminates the jungle with tons of mercury. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd
Miners' belongings lay on the ground after they were destroyed by police as part of a crackdown on the illegal mining camp in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 16, 2014. Peru's government has dialed up a crackdown on illegal gold mining that has badly scarred the ecologically rich southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A woman walks through the rubble of the makeshift homes that belong to miners after police destroyed the illegal mining camp in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 16, 2014. Security forces are also destroying miners' backhoes, generators and water pumps during the crackdown on illegal gold mining. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Police stand guard along a highway leading to illegal mining operations in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 16, 2014. The government started cracking down on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A police officer stands guard over women detained for allegedly being sex workers at a bar in La Pampa, an illegal mining area in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 16, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. By cracking down the government is toying with a powder keg, some Peruvians fear. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Mining machinery lays destroyed in a crater created by gold mining after police cracked down on the operation in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 16, 2014. Peru's government is cracking down on illegal gold mining that has badly scarred the ecologically rich southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 4, 2014 photo, a miner holds an amalgam of mercury and gold he mined after working a 28-hour shift at an illegal gold mining process, in La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Thousands of artisanal gold miners sweat through the long shifts and endure, for a few grams of gold, the perils of collapsing earth, limb-crushing machinery and the toxic mercury used to bind gold flecks. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 5, 2014 photo, after it stopped raining, Johan tied his father's raincoat around himself while playing in the front yard of their temporary home next to their satellite tv dish at a mining camp in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. It's not just miners who are threatened with economic catastrophe from the government's campaign to wipe out illegal mining operations, said a mining camp cook. For every miner there is a family that eats because he works, she said. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Friday, May 2, 2014 photo, a gold miner carries special carpets that are used to filter sand for gold at an illegal mine in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 4, 2014 photo, a mining camp lines the horizon in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Since artisanal gold mining took hold in La Pampa, miners began carving a lawless, series of ramshackle settlement out of the Amazonian jungle territory in 2008. The artisanal miners, who know they will be soon be evicted, are working up to the last minute after Peru’s government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 4, 2014 photo, a miner continues his search for gold in mud-drenched clothes inside a crater at an illegal gold mine process in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. The informal miners of La Pampa know they will soon be evicted, their engines blown up and settlements burned after Peru’s government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19. The government claims that the informal miners have destroyed the surrounding forests and polluted the environment by using mercury in the gold extraction process. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 4, 2014 photo, a miner stands next to a tube used to transport soil removed from a surrounding crater to a sluice-like carpeted contraption to filter gold in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Artisanal gold miners began carving the lawless, series of ramshackle settlement out of Amazon jungle in 2008. The miners who are working up to the last minute, know they will be soon be evicted, Peru’s government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 3, 2014 photo, an informal miner works to separate flecks of gold from the sandy, alluvial soil, using mercury to bind inside the crater of a gold mine process in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. The clock has run out for the thousands of illegal gold miners who had until April 19 to legalize their status in a region of southeastern Peru where fortune-seekers have ravaged rainforests and contaminated rivers. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 4, 2014 photo, a miner melts an amalgam of gold and mercury to burn off the mercury, in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. This rudimentary process of extracting the gold from the amalgam, releases mercury vapors, adding to the contamination that is resulting in the deforestation of thousands of acres of the Amazon rainforest. Peru’s government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19 and began a crackdown, dynamiting their equipment. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 3, 2014 photo, Prisaida, 2, sits in the shallow waters of a polluted lagoon as her parents mine for gold nearby, in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. The lagoon emerged as a result of miners bombarding the earth with jet streams of water in search of gold. The miners know they will be soon be evicted, Peru’s government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A couple talks outside a night club located along a highway turn off that leads to gold mining camps early in the early morning in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region in Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A miner poses for a portrait as he takes a break from mining for gold in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A man walks on special carpets that are used to filter earth and water in search of gold at an illegal mine in La Pampa, in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. People at the illegal gold mine are working up to the last minute while they fear authorities will arrive any moment as part of a government crackdown since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this May 3, 2014 photo, a rope hangs around the trunk of a tree at a illegal gold mining process in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. An estimated 20,000 miners toil in this malarial expanse of denuded rainforest known as La Pampa. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A nightclub worker sits outside a club located along a highway turn off that leads to gold mining camps in the La Pampa area of the Madre de Dios region in Peru, Thursday, May 1, 2014. Madre de Dios state has an estimated 40,000 illegal miners, most centered near the commercially vital Interoceanic Highway that links the Pacific Ocean with Brazil. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A miner uses his legs to wash sand with mercury, to bind the gold flecks, inside a barrel in La Pampa, in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. Gold miners are working up to the last minute while they fear authorities will arrive any moment as part of a government crackdown since a nationwide ban on illegal gold mining took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Land lays barren after being mined for gold in La Pampa, in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A miner washes sand and gold with mercury inside a barrel at La Pampa gold mine in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. Gold miners use mercury to bind the gold flecks they dig up, and are working up to the last minute while they fear authorities will arrive any moment as part of a government crackdown since a nationwide ban on illegal gold mining took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A miner washes sand and gold with mercury in La Pampa, in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. People at the illegal gold mine are working up to the last minute while they fear authorities will arrive any moment as part of a government crackdown since a nationwide ban on illegal gold mining took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, policemen run to board a helicopter, after taking part in an operation to eradicate illegal gold mining camps in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Less than a month before Peru plays host to global climate talks, the government sent a battalion of police into the southeastern jungles to dismantle illegal gold-mining mining camps. Peru first criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only began enforcing the law vigorously this year with serious manpower and explosives. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Water streams over carpets that filter the earth and water at an illegal gold mine in the La Pampa area of the Madre de Dios region in Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. People at the illegal gold mine are working up to the last minute while they fear authorities will arrive any moment as part of a government crackdown on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
People transport empty drums at an illegal gold mine in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. People at the mine are working up to the last minute while they fear authorities will arrive any moment as part of a government crackdown since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A boy searches for gold at an illegal mine in the La Pampa area of the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. People at the illegal gold mine are working up to the last minute while they fear authorities will arrive any moment as part of a government crackdown since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Miner Manuel Espinosa, left, eats breakfast with his wife Rocio who feeds their 4-month-old son Edward at the site of an illegal gold mine the La Pampa area of the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A gold miner carries special carpets that are used to filter sand for gold at an illegal mine in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, and most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A miner carries hoses inside an illegal gold mine in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. People at the mine are working up to the last minute while they fear authorities will arrive any moment as part of a government crackdown on illegal gold mining since a nationwide ban took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Manuel Espinosa holds his 4-month-old son Edward, brought to him by his wife as he takes a break from mining gold in La Pampa, located in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. Madre de Dios state has an estimated 40,000 illegal miners, most centered near the commercially vital Interoceanic Highway that links the Pacific Ocean with Brazil. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A nightclub worker sits outside the club located along a highway turn off that leads to gold mining camps in the La Pampa area of the Madre de Dios region in Peru, Thursday, May 1, 2014. Madre de Dios state has an estimated 40,000 illegal miners, most centered near the commercially vital Interoceanic Highway that links the Pacific Ocean with Brazil. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A man throws an empty drum into the crater made from gold mining in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region in Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. People at the illegal gold mine are working up to the last minute while they fear authorities will arrive any moment as part of a government crackdown since a nationwide ban on illegal gold mining took effect April 19. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In the middle of a large crater, a miner floats on a platform rigged with an engine pumping water that's being used to fire at the crater's walls where gold can be found, at an illegal gold mine in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, Friday, May 2, 2014. Gold miners use mercury to bind the gold flecks they dig up, and have ravaged forests and poisoned rivers in a biodiverse region that is also home to tribes living in voluntary isolation. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
An aerial photo shows tailings in La Pampa district produced by informal mining in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
An aerial photo shows the scope of informal mining operations in the Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This Wednesday, April 30, 2014 photo shows an aerial view of tailings in La Pampa district caused by informal mining in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Illegal gold mining has badly scarred the ecologically rich southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Wednesday, April 30, 2014 photo, gasoline used for illegal mining burns as it is destroyed by authorities in the Huepetuhe district of Peru's Madre de Dios region. Soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Wednesday, April 30, 2014 photo, land affected by illegal gold mining stands in the Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Illegal gold miners use tons of mercury to bind the gold flecks they dig up, and have ravaged forests and poisoned rivers in a biodiverse region that is also home to tribes living in voluntary isolation. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
An aerial photo shows tailings in Huepetuhe district produced by informal mining in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Illegal mining accounts for about 20 percent of Peru's gold exports, but most miners are poor migrants from the Andean highlands. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
The city of Huepetuhe in Peru's Madre de Dios region is seen from a helicopter, Monday, April 28, 2014. Soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Riot police stand guard at an illegal mining operation in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Some 1,500 soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s thousands of illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
An aerial photo shows the scope of illegal mining in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. The mining uses tons of mercury and has ravaged forests and poisoned rivers. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Machinery used for illegal mining burns after authorities blew it up in Huepetuhe district in Peru's Madre de Dios region in Peru, Monday, April 28, 2014. Some 1,500 soldiers, police and marines have begun destroying illegal gold mining machinery in Peru’s southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. Authorities began enforcing a ban on illegal mining Monday in the Huepetuhe district. They had given the state’s illegal miners until April 19 to get legal or halt operations. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Debris from surface gold mining have left vast areas of land with permanent ecological damage, near the village of Nueva in Puerto Maldonado, considered as the Peruvian capital of biodiversity, some 1,660 kilometres (995 miles) southeast of Lima on October 2, 2014. In a few years, illegal mining has wiped out about 58 hectares of forested areas, poisoning rivers with 30 to 40 tons of mercury being dumped into its basins every year. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris from surface gold mining have left vast areas of land with permanent ecological damage, near the village of Nueva in Puerto Maldonado, in what has been considered the Peruvian capital of biodiversity, some 1,660 kilometres (995 miles) southeast east of Lima on October 2, 2014. In a few years, illegal mining has wiped out about 58.000 hectares of forested areas, poisoning rivers with 30 to 40 tons of mercury being dumped into its basins every year. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris from surface gold mining have left vast areas of land with permanent ecological damage, near the village of Nueva in Puerto Maldonado, considered as the Peruvian capital of biodiversity, some 1,660 kilometres (995 miles) southeast of Lima on October 2, 2014. In a few years, illegal mining has wiped out about 58.000 hectares of forested areas, poisoning rivers with 30 to 40 tons of mercury being dumped into its basins every year. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris from surface gold mining have left vast areas of land with permanent ecological damage, near the village of Nueva in Puerto Maldonado, considered as the Peruvian capital of biodiversity, some 1,660 kilometres (995 miles) southeast of Lima on October 2, 2014. In a few years, illegal mining has wiped out about 58.000 hectares of forested areas, poisoning rivers with 30 to 40 tons of mercury being dumped into its basins every year. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
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