Peru’s Operation Mercury, a win for forests: We observed a 92% decrease in deforestation

August 3, 2019

Peru's Operation Mercury, a win for forests- We observed a 92% decrease in deforestationEarlier this year, the government of Peru launched a multi-sectoral and comprehensive mega-operation aimed at eradicating illegal mining and associated crime in La Pampa, Peru, called Operation Mercury. The operation came about in part after Amazon Conservation, through our real-time monitoring program, provided the Peruvian government with key information on the location of illegal mining camps that enabled the government to take coordinated action.

The operation, named after the mercury contaminant that is released into the water as a byproduct of the mining process, took the information we provided and began major efforts to stop the widespread deforestation in the area caused by illegal miners, improve development in the region, and deter other illicit activities such as sex trafficking and child labor that take place in mining camps.

Using our real-time satellite technology and drone overflights, we have been assessing the success of the operation in stopping illegal gold mining. To date, we have found a major reduction in deforestation from gold mining in La Pampa due to the operation. Gold mining-based deforestation has decreased by 92% between 2018 (2,200 acres) and 2019 (165 acres), comparing the situation before and after the start of Operation Mercury.

Despite its significant success, the gold mining deforestation in La Pampa has not yet been completely eradicated and continues in numerous remote and isolated areas, as we show in our latest MAAP report. However, the results of the operation are a big win for conservation, as they show that strong government action can help curb illegal deforestation. And when action does take place, we have seen that forests begin to recover and grow back.  

Amazon Conservation will continue to assess the progress of the operation, and work closely with the government to produce fact-based reports that can be turned into action on the ground.