Peru opens military base to protect Amazon from deforestation

Peru opens military base to protect Amazon from deforestation POOL/AFP / GUADALUPE PARDO View of the deforested area around a now-dismantled illegal mining camp in the Peruvian Amazon

Peru opened a military base in the Amazon on Tuesday in a bid to tackle illegal mining, the main culprit for deforestation in the world's largest rainforest.

"The government has taken the political decision to be present in this region to eradicate illegal mining," said Defense Minister Jose Huerta at the inauguration of the base in the Tambopata nature reserve.

The reserve lies in the Madre de Dios region known as the capital of illegal mining in Peru.

The military base has been installed in an old camp of log cabins abandoned by illegal miners two weeks ago when Peru began its "Mercury" operation against the practice.

"We've come and we'll stay as long as is necessary," said Huerta. More military bases are planned.

Peru opens military base to protect Amazon from deforestation POOL/AFP / GUADALUPE PARDO Illegal miners left a huge desert of sand in the middle of the lush jungle due to mercury contamination produced by their activities

"We've had a first two week phase and now we go to the second stage," expected to last six months, he added.

Environment Minister Fabiola Munoz, who also attended the base opening, said Madre de Dios is an area of high biodiversity and great tourism potential "that has only been exploited a little bit."

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