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From pristine to poisoned: Illegal gold mining destroying Peruvian rainforest
Illegal mining is the No. 2 cause of deforestation in Peru, after clear-cutting for agriculture, Environmental Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said on the eve of the Dec. 1-12 U.N. climate conference that his nation is hosting.
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In this May 21, 2014 photo, Nilda Macedo holds her two-month-old baby Snyder not far from where her husband Joel mines for gold in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Life is cheap in the mining camps. Deaths go unrecorded and the mercury miners use to bind the gold compounds the risks. Tons of mercury dumped into the environment poisons the food chain for society at large, starting with the miners and their families. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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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)

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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)

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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 Perus rainforest. That comes from small-scale agriculture by poor migrants from the Andean countrys 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)

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In this May 16, 2014 photo, wood slats serve as a makeshift walkway built by wildcat miners, at an abandoned mining camp, in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Illegal gold mining has rendered virgin Peruvian rainforest into a pocked, scarred wasteland over the past decade. The denuded, puddle-littered expanse in the southeastern region of Madre de Dios is home to one of the worlds greatest treasures of biodiversity. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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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 Perus rainforest. That comes from small-scale agriculture by poor migrants from the Andean countrys highlands, says Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal. Illegal logging and palm oil plantations also eat away at the rainforest. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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In this May 2, 2014 photo, miners filter sands on special carpets, filtering for gold flecks that fall into the pool of water at their feet, in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Excavations for reaching alluvial gold flecks have left holes that could swallow a half-dozen buses and contaminated rivers with tens of tons of mercury. Peru's stewardship of its southeastern jungles, as host of this years Dec. 1-12 U.N. climate conference, has come under question. Deforestation and land use account for up to 15 percent of global warming. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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In this May 20, 2014 photo, footprints left by miners lead to and from a mining camp, in Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Perus government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19 and began a crackdown, working to root out the estimated 20,000 wildcat miners whose toil has left a huge scar of denuded Amazon rainforest. The Andean country is host to global climate talks that began Monday, Dec. 1. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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 years Dec. 1-12 U.N. climate conference, has come under question. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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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)

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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)

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In this May 2, 2014 photo, a miner walks into a crater at a makeshift gold mining operation towards a platform rigged with a rustic type hydralic jet, in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. The Andean nation is more than 60 percent jungle and its stewardship of that land, as host of this years Dec. 1-12 U.N. climate conference, has come under question. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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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)

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In this May 22, 2014 photo, a miner hopes to catch a ride on road that was heavily trafficked by gold miners before a police crackdown on illegal mining in Huepetuhe, in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. The Andean country 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)

From pristine to poisoned: Illegal gold mining destroying Peruvian rainforest

Illegal mining is the No. 2 cause of deforestation in Peru, after clear-cutting for agriculture, Environmental Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said on the eve of the Dec. 1-12 U.N. climate conference that his nation is hosting.

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