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State of Emergency declared in Peru after mining protests

A 60-day state of emergency has been declared in four provinces of Cajamarca state, following violent protests against a gold-and-copper mining project which is part-owned by a US company.

File photo of a mine at Huaypetue, Madre de Dios, Peru
File photo of a mine at Huaypetue, Madre de Dios, Peru
Image: : Esteban Felix/AP/Press Association Images

A STATE OF emergency has been declared in part of Peru over protests about mining in the country.

President Ollanta Humala declared a 60-day state of emergency yesterday in a northern region wracked by protests against a highlands gold mine by peasants who fear for their water supply.

The emergency restricts civil liberties such as the right to assembly and allows arrests without warrants in four provinces of Cajamarca state.

These areas have been paralyzed for 11 days by increasingly violent protests against the $4.8-billion Conga gold-and-copper mining project, of which the US-based Newmont Mining Corp is the majority owner.

Dozens have been injured in clashes between police and protesters, some of whom have vandalised Conga property.

The general strike also shuttered schools and affectedtransportation as protesters mounted roadblocks.

Humala said in a brief televised address last night that protest leaders had shown no interest “in reaching minimal agreements to permit a return of social peace” after a day of talks in Cajamarca with Cabinet chief Salmon Lerner and three other ministers.

Humala said the government “has exhausted all paths to establish dialogue as a point of departure to resolve the conflict democratically” and blamed “the intransigence of a sector of local and regional leaders.”

He said the emergency would take effect at midnight last night.

Cajamarca state’s governor, Gregorio Santos, who has been leading the protests, called Humala’s announcement an unnecessary provocation.

“We will continue with our fight,” Santos added.

Local elected officials have led protests against Conga, an extension of the nearby Yanacocha mine, for more than a month.

They say they fear it will taint and diminish water supplies affecting thousands and have demanded a new study of the environmental impact of the mine, which was to begin production in 2015.

Peruvian government officials have expressed no intention of redoing Conga’s environmental impact study, which was approved by the Ministry of Mining in October 2010.

Those plans call for displacing four lakes more than two miles high and replacing them with reservoirs. Local residents say they fear that could affect an important acquifer on which thousands depend.

Several weeks ago, the Interior Ministry asked prosecutors to file criminal charges against Santos and four other local leaders who have led protests against Conga.

Newmont announced last week that it was suspending work at Conga until order could be restored.

Humala told Cajamarca residents during campaign swings before his June election that clean water was more important for him than gold.

Many local inhabitants said they now feel betrayed by the president.

Peru’s economy depends heavily on mining, which accounts for 61 percent of its export income.

Humala persuaded the mining industry to agree to a tax on windfall profits to help him fund social programs – which could yield about $1 billion a year.

If Conga were to be shelved, government officials fear not just for the windfall tax’s yield but also for the fate of more than $40 billion in mining investment that’s in the pipeline.

There are currently more than 60 disputes in Peru over the alleged detrimental impact of mining on water supplies, according to the national ombudsman’s office.

About the author:

Associated Press

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