Government invades modern-day gold-rush town in Amazon in its biggest ever raid on illegal gold mining

Located along a jungle highway in the Amazon around 60 miles from the nearest city, La Pampa was a place you entered at your own risk. At night it was a riot of neon lights and pulsating cumbía music from “prostibar” brothels, frequented by roaming groups of men flush with cash. Neither authorities nor outsiders – and particularly not journalists – were welcome.

This modern-day gold-rush town, home to about 25,000 people, was both a hub for organised crime and people trafficking and a gateway into a treeless, lunar landscape pocked with toxic pools created by illegal gold mining, stretching far into one of the Amazon’s most treasured reserves.

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