06 Best Feature Photography Award 2014

AWARD DATE: 2014

AWARD NAME: Feature Photography Award 2014

AWARD RECIPIENT: Rodrigo Abd

AWARD RECIPIENT AFFILIATION: The Associated Press

AWARD HONORED WORK: Peru’s Illegal Gold Mining

Rodrigo Abd shines a light on an underreported subject, the threat looming for 20,000 wildcat gold miners in Peru. His photographs are intimate and straightforward, documenting the subject without stylistic trickery, enhancing their journalistic value.


A new threat now looms for the estimated 20,000 wildcat miners who toil in a huge scar of denuded rainforest known as La Pampa, an area nearly three times the size of Washington, D.C. Peru's government declared all informal mining illegal on April 19, 2014, and began a crackdown.

Miners known as "Maraqueros" ready a rustic type of hydraulic jet known locally as a "Chupadera," after hauling the device about 16-meters deep into a crater at a gold mine process in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region.

Gasoline used for illegal mining burns as it is destroyed by authorities in the Huepetuhe district of Peru's Madre de Dios region.

Manuel Espinosa holds his four-month-old son, Edward, brought to him by his wife as he takes a break from mining gold in La Pampa, Peru in the Madre de Dios region on Friday, May 2, 2014. Madre de Dios state has an estimated 40,000 illegal miners, most centered near the commercially vital Interoceanic Highway that links the Pacific Ocean with Brazil.

A column of policemen occupy a gold mining camp as part of an operation to eradicate illegal mining in the area known as La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Peru’s anti-illegal mining czar, retired army Gen. Augusto Soto, marched the men to the wasteland known as La Pampa, where 50,000 hectares of rainforest have been obliterated in the past six years.

Miners leave the site where they lived and worked after police destroyed their illegal mining operation in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Madre de Dios state has an estimated 40,000 illegal miners, most of whom are poor migrants from the Andean highlands.

A jet stream of water passes above two miners known as "Maraqueros" who remove stones and chunks of tree trunks that have been released with the aid of a rustic type of hydraulic jet known locally as a "Chupadera," in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. The Chupadera aims powerful jet streams of water at earth walls, releasing the soils that hold the sought after flecks of gold.

This aerial photo, shows a deforested area dotted with blue tarps, marking the area where miners reside, and craters filled with water, caused by illegal gold mining activities, in La Pampa, in Peru's Madre de Dios region. In addition to contributing to deforestation, the illegal alluvial gold mining contaminates the jungle with tons of mercury.

Prisaida, 2, sits in the shallow waters of a polluted lagoon as her parents mine for gold nearby, in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region.  The lagoon emerged as a result of miners bombarding the earth with jet streams of water in search of gold. The miners know they will be soon be evicted.

A rope hangs around the trunk of a tree at a illegal gold mining process in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. An estimated 20,000 miners toil in this malarial expanse of denuded rainforest known as La Pampa.

A miner roughly estimates his handful of gold he mined, after working for over 24-hours,  in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. Thousands of artisanal gold miners sweat through the long hours and endure, for a few grams of gold, the perils of collapsing earth, limb-crushing machinery and the toxic mercury used to bind gold flecks.

A golden statue of a miner holding a shovel and plate stands in the empty central square of Huepetuhe in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Thousands of people have left the Peruvian Amazon boomtown since the government halted gasoline shipments in April and sent troops to destroy heavy machinery used in mining that it deemed illegal.