LA PAMPA, Peru (AP) — In one of the biggest such raids yet, police and soldiers destroyed scores of illegal gold mining camps in Peru's Madre de Dios region this week.
They also targeted about three dozen brothels where officials said they rescued two minors presumably working as prostitutes.
It was the latest in more than 60 operations that the government has conducted since 2014, when it made illegal for wildcatters to continue mining that has been ravaging pristine jungle and contaminating it with tons of mercury.
More than 1,000 police and soldiers dynamited and dismantled mining machinery valued at $3 million, including dredges and motors used to separate gold flecks from sand in crude sluices, the government said.
The targeted area in southeastern jungles bordering Brazil and Bolivia, a region known as La Pampa, is adjacent to the Tambopata reserve, one of the world's most biologically diverse ecospheres. The dredges were used on the Malinowski river.
Most of the miners are highlands peasants lured by the promise of modest riches, especially now that gold prices have climbed back above $1,200 an ounce.
During the raids, police took into custody two girls under age 18 believed to have been employed in sex work, said Luz Saavedra, the prosecutor in charge.
Associated Press writer Franklin Briceno contributed to this report from Lima, Peru