AP PHOTOS: Police climb Andes to destroy illegal gold mines

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AP PHOTOS: Police climb Andes to destroy illegal gold mines
Police walk past land destroyed by gold mining during a government operation to destroy the mine's equipment in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The operation was concentrated in this area of the Andes near Peru's border with Bolivia, where the altitude is above 4,900 meters, or 16,000 feet above sea level. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Police leave after destroying illegal gold mining equipment in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Police braved thin air, frigid temperatures and hostile reactions from wildcat miners. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A police officer rests, exhausted by the high altitude, during a government operation to destroy illegal gold mining camps in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The agents arrived by bus to the Ananea Nevado, located at 4,900 meters, or 16,000 feet, above sea level, to destroy wildcat mines in the Andes' frigid temperatures. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A police officer breathes from an oxygen tank due to the high altitude, above 4,900 meters, or 16,000 feet, during a government operation to destroy illegal mining camps in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. More than 500 agents joined the operation to destroy 18 camps in this area of the Andes near the border with Bolivia. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Platforms used for washing and selecting gold, known as "Chutes," are covered with snow during a government operation to destroy the illegal camp in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. According to official figures, at least 5% of the 141 tons of gold produced in the country last year came from the unauthorized mining. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A woman yells at police who arrived to destroy the illegal gold mining camp where she lives in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Peru is the largest gold producer in Latin America and the seventh worldwide. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Smoke rises over an illegal gold mining camp after police set fire to machinery and gasoline used by the miners in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Peru first criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only began enforcing the law vigorously last year with serious manpower and explosives. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 photo, police stand in line before destroying illegal gold mining camps in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region. The operation was concentrated in this area of the Andes near the border with Bolivia, where the altitude is above 4,900 meters, or 16,000 feet. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Exhausted police stand guard during a government operation to destroy illegal mining camps in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Police braved thin air at above 4,900 meters, or 16,000 feet above sea level, frigid temperatures and hostile reactions from wildcat miners. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Artificial lagoons created by wildcat miners stand still during a government operation to destroy miners' equipment in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. In addition to contributing to deforestation, which scientists blame for between 12 and 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the illegal gold mining contaminates the area with tons of mercury. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Police stand guard as their team destroys a mining equipment at a wildcat gold mine camp in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The operation was concentrated in this area of the Andes near the border with Bolivia, where the altitude is above 4,900 meters, or 16,000 feet. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Dogs stand at the site of a wildcat gold mining operation, opposite police who arrived to destroy miners' equipment in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. In addition to contributing to deforestation, which scientists blame for between 12 and 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the illegal gold mining contaminates the area with tons of mercury. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Smoke rises from an illegal gold mining camp as police burn machinery and gasoline next to pools of water created for the mining process in Ananea, Peru, in the Puno region on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Peru criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only began enforcing the law vigorously in 2014. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Flowers adorn a tomb at an illegal gold mining camp in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, during a police operation to destroy the camp's mining equipment. The extraction of gold contaminates the area with tons of mercury, a toxin that drains into water sources that can reach lake Titicaca, the largest body of freshwater in South America. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Tires and tools used for gold mining are blanketed in snow at a wildcat mining camp in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, during a government operation to destroy the camp's equipment. Authorities destroyed the installations, which include machinery and motorized water pumps, in order to protect water sources that drain into lake Titicaca, the largest body of freshwater in South America. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Wildcat gold miners watch police arrive to destroy their equipment in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The government gave informal miners until April 19 of last year to formalize any claims they might have, but the vast majority didn't have any and police began moving in to enforce a law that criminalizes unlicensed gold mining. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Men watch police destroy their machinery at their illegal mining camp in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Police destroyed 18 camps used by thousands of wildcat miners who extract gold. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Police stand in line before destroying illegal gold mining camps in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The operation was concentrated in this area of the Andes near the border with Bolivia, where the altitude is above 4,900 meters, or 16,000 feet. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Miners protest by burning tires as they wait for police to destroy their illegal mining camp and equipment in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The gold extracted from the Andes and the Amazon ends up being exported to several countries including the United States and Switzerland, according to prosecutors. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Police walk past tired set on fire by protesting wildcat gold miners as they arrive to destroy mining machinery in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Police braved thin air, frigid temperatures and hostile reactions from wildcat miners. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Wildcat miners watch at police destroy their mining machinery during a government raid on their camp in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The operation was concentrated in this area of the Andes near Peru's border with Bolivia, where the altitude is above 4,900 meters, or 16,000 feet above sea level. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Police gather early before sunrise at a wildcat gold mine to destroy machinery in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The agents arrived by bus to the Ananea Nevado, located at 4,900 meters, or 16,000 feet, above sea level, to destroy wildcat mines in the Andes' frigid temperatures. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Smoke rises from an illegal gold mining camp, coming from machinery and gasoline being incinerated by police, next to pools of water created for the mining process in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Peru first criminalized unlicensed gold mining in 2012 but only began enforcing the law vigorously last year with serious manpower and explosives. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Gold miners protest by burning tires during a police operation to destroy their illegal mining equipment in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Peru is Latin Americaâs largest producer of gold but in recent years has seen its jungles and rivers contaminated by a boom in wildcat mining. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Bulldozers used by wildcat gold miners stand covered in snow during a government operation to destroy the camp in Ananea, in Peru's Puno region, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. Illegal mining has destroyed large swaths of the Andean range over the past 15 years. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
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ANANEA, Peru (AP) — Hundreds of Peruvian police officers using oxygen tanks climbed high into the snowcapped Andes to destroy 18 work camps belonging to illegal gold miners.

The operation took place Friday near Ananea Mountain nearly 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) above sea level along Peru's border with Bolivia.

Authorities put a high premium on destroying the installations, which included heavy machinery and motorized water pumps, in order to protect water sources that drain into Lake Titicaca, the largest body of freshwater in South America.

To carry out the operation, roughly 1,000 police officers had to brave thin air, frigid temperatures and the hostile reaction of wildcat miners who have destroyed large swaths of the Andean range over the past 15 years.

Peru is Latin America's largest producer of gold but in recent years has seen its jungles and rivers contaminated by a boom in unauthorized wildcat mining. Officials estimate as much as 5 percent of the 141 metric tons of gold extracted last year was mined illegally.

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Associated Press writer Franklin Briceno in Lima contributed to this report.

Police Are Cracking Down On Peru's Illegal Gold Mining Camps
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