Peru police detain Newmont opposition leader after violent protests

Date of publication: 
5 July 2012

One person was left dead on Wednesday as the protests against Newmont Mining’s $5 billion Conga gold mine turned violent and led to the detention of opposition leader Marco Arana.

LIMA – One person died and police detained one of the leaders of protests against Newmont’s $5 billion gold mine in Peru on Wednesday, the day after clashes between police and protesters left three people dead and 21 injured.

The second day of violence erupted in the northern region of Cajamarca as President Ollanta Humala came under criticism for suspending freedom of assembly in the area late on Tuesday.

“One death has been confirmed, a civilian,” Prime Minister Oscar Valdes told a press conference.

Left-wing leader Marco Arana, a soft-spoken former Roman Catholic priest who has rallied demonstrators to stop construction of the biggest mine in Peruvian history, said police had beaten him and local TV showed photographs of authorities taking him away.

“They detained me and beat me a lot, inside the police station they beat me again – punches in the face, the kidneys and insults,” Arana said via Twitter.

Arana is widely thought to have presidential ambitions. He and his allies on the left say Humala has drifted too far to the right since taking office and has put the interests of global miners ahead of poor peasants.

Humala, a former military officer, says the mine proposed by the U.S.-based Newmont would generate thousands of jobs and huge tax revenues. Protesters say it would cause pollution, contaminate water supplies and fail to bring local economic benefits.

Opposition lawmakers and human rights groups denounced Arana’s detention as part of a harsh crackdown by Humala – who took office a year ago urging mediation to solve hundreds of disputes nationwide over natural resources but has been quick to suspend civil liberties to quell protests.

Humala has implemented emergency measures involving the suspension of civil liberties at least three times in the past year. He also arrested a mayor in the southern region of Cusco in May for leading a protest against global miner Xstrata.

“What we have here is a repressive attitude, which is violating the rule of law, and an intelligence service that is working for the mining sector,” said Congressman Jorge Rimarachin, who once supported Humala but has defected from his party. “This is totally unacceptable.”

Members of Humala’s party blamed Arana and another strident opponent of the mine – Gregorio Santos, the president of Cajamarca region – for inciting violence at a rally of 2,000 people on Tuesday where protesters threw rocks and vandalized public buildings.

“The only person responsible for this is Mr. Santos,” said lawmaker Teofilo Gamarra of Humala’s Gana Peru party.

Building Reservoirs

Official data shows at least 14 people have died during Humala’s term in protests over natural resources, compared with 174 who were killed in similar circumstances from 2006 to 2011 on the watch of his predecessor, Alan Garcia.

Newmont’s project in Cajamarca, known as Conga, is partly owned by local miner Buenaventura and would produce between 580,000 and 680,000 ounces of gold annually. Conga would essentially replace the nearby Yanacocha mine run by Newmont and Buenaventura that is nearing the end of its life.

Protesters have expressed outrage that Humala gave the miner permission a week ago to proceed with construction of the project after Newmont agreed to comply with a more stringent environmental mitigation plan recommended by outside experts.

Newmont has agreed to build larger reservoirs that would replace two or more in a string of alpine lakes and guarantee year-round water supplies in towns that suffer during the dry season. It started work on those reservoirs over the weekend after nearly all construction work one the mine had been stopped since November because of protests.

The company’s local office said on Tuesday the violence was unfortunate, but said it was “reaffirming its commitment to Cajamarca.”

Peru, which has vast mineral resources, is the world’s second-largest producer of copper and sixth of gold, but many mining communities suffer from widespread poverty and complain a decade-long economic boom has passed them by.


Peru clash over Newmont mine kills three

Reuters –

4 July 2012

Three people were killed and 21 injured on Tuesday when Peruvian police clashed with protesters opposed to a $5 billion gold mine planned by Newmont Mining, officials in the northern region of Cajamarca said.

The fatalities were the first in Cajamarca since protests against the mine started there late last year and the government has responded by suspending freedom of assembly to quell clashes between police, soldiers and protesters.

“I don’t think we Peruvians should tolerate bad apples who incite violence that ends up causing deaths,” Prime Minister Oscar Valdes said.

Most of the victims were being treated in the city of Cajamarca and the town of Celendin – the flashpoint of violence between 2,000 protesters and police and near where the U.S. company plans to build the biggest mine in Peruvian history.

The interior ministry said two of the injured were police officers who were shot by gun-carrying protesters who also threw rocks, damaged public buildings and were repelled with tear gas.

“Unfortunately there are three dead … from gunshot wounds,” Miguel Castillo, a regional judicial official, said on RPP radio.

President Ollanta Humala, a former military officer, took office a year ago, urging mediation to solve hundreds of disputes over spoils from natural-resource projects.

However, he has since used emergency rules at least three times to end anti-mining protests in one of the world’s top metals exporters. Critics say the harsher measures are symptomatic of his drift to the right.

Official data show that at least a dozen people have died during Humala’s term in protests over natural resources, compared with 174 who were killed in similar circumstances from 2006 to 2011 on the watch of his predecessor, Alan Garcia.

Protesters have halted nearly all work at Newmont’s Conga mine since November, saying it would cause pollution, harm water supplies, and fail to bring enough local economic benefits.

The president of the region of Cajamarca, Gregorio Santos, who has been a strident critic of the proposed mine, accused Humala’s government of putting big miners ahead of poor peasants left behind by the country’s decade-long economic boom.

Criticism of the President

“This is the government we have – everything for miners and bullets for the people,” he said on Twitter. “Humala, this is the cost of defending the savage neoliberal economic model and multinational miners. This is the cost of not keeping your word.”

Humala has said the project is vital for Peru as it would generate thousands of jobs and huge tax revenues in one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies. Getting the project built would send a strong signal to investors that the government won’t allow disputes over natural resources to further delay projects in its $50 billion pipeline of planned mines.

Once a firebrand leftist, Humala has irked traditional allies on the left by defending foreign investment and free trade since taking office a year ago.

Over the weekend, leaders of the protests, including Wilfredo Saavedra, a lawyer who once belonged to the Tupac Amaru insurgency, vowed to take tougher measures to stop the mine.

Protesters have expressed outrage that Humala gave permission a week ago to proceed with construction of the project after Newmont agreed to comply with a more stringent environmental mitigation plan recommended by outside experts. Humala’s green light ended a seven-month-long impasse over the mine’s future.

Newmont has agreed to build larger reservoirs that would replace two or more in a string of alpine lakes and guarantee year-round water supplies in towns that suffer during the dry season.

The company’s local office said the violence was unfortunate, but that it was “reaffirming its commitment to Cajamarca” and urged all sides to reach an understanding.

On Monday, Humala responded to threats of new rallies by saying protesters would have to “face the consequences” of their actions.

Conga, which is partly owned by local miner Buenaventura, would produce between 580,000 and 680,000 ounces of gold annually.

Peru, which has vast mineral resources, is the world’s second-largest producer of copper and sixth of gold, but many mining communities suffer from widespread poverty and complain a decade-long economic boom has passed them by.

(Reporting by Lima Newsroom; Editing by Christopher Wilson, David Brunnstrom and Lisa Shumaker)


Peruvian opponents of big gold mine storm town hall and battle police; at least 3 killed

Associated Press –

3 July 2012

LIMA, Peru — Protesters opposed to Peru’s biggest mining project attacked a provincial town hall and battled police and soldiers Tuesday in violence that claimed three lives and injured at least 21, authorities said.

Police guarding the municipal building in Celendin, a town in the northern state of Cajamarca, fought back when the protesters attacked and later got help from soldiers, officials said. Peru’s Interior Ministry said gunshots were fired by protesters, but did not say whether police or troops used their weapons.

Three men were killed during the fight, at least two of them by gunshots to the head, Reynaldo Nunez, Cajamarca’s health director, told The Associated Press by phone. Most of the injured had received blows, he said.

Nunez said he did not know whether police or soldiers were among the injured. The Interior Ministry’s statement said two police officers were wounded by bullets fired by protesters.

Celendin is a stronghold of opposition to the proposed $4.8 billion Conga gold mine, which many locals fear will hurt their water supplies. The mine’s majority owner is Newmont Mining Co., a U.S. company based in the state of Colorado.

Backed by Cajamarca’s regional president, protesters have refused to accept a compromise proposed by President Ollanta Humala that his government says will protect water supplies. The compromise includes the construction of four reservoirs to replace reservoirs that are to be destroyed by the project.

Celendin’s town manager, Moises Silva, told the AP that violence broke out when construction workers arrived at the town hall and began kicking its main door, prompting police officers to fire tear gas.

“After that, a fierce battle began between the protesters and police, and also soldiers who intervened in support of the police,” he said. “You could hear gunshots.”

The violence came just days after Yanacocha, the company in charge of Conga, began work on the new reservoirs.

The anti-mining protesters accuse Humala, who was elected one year ago, of betraying a campaign promise he made in Cajamarca that access to clean water would come before mining.

His government says responsible mining can co-exist with environmental protection and provides important revenues that can help lift rural Peruvians from poverty.

Mining accounts for more than 60 percent of Peru’s export earnings and has been the engine of a decade-long economic boom.


Three killed in Peru protest at Newmont mine project


July 3 2012

LIMA — At least three people have been killed and 20 injured during clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting a planned $4.8 billion gold mine by US-based Newmont in northern Peru.

A 17-year-old was among those killed, and 15 people were also arrested at the Conga mining project, Cajamarca region prosecutor Esperanza Leon told RPP radio.

More than 1,000 protesters threw stones at government offices in the town of Celendin, and police responded by firing tear gas and using their batons to disperse the crowd, local media reported.

During the scuffle, two police officers were wounded by “guns fired by protesters who were trying to take over Celendin,” the interior ministry said in a statement. It accused the demonstrators of committing “criminal acts.”

The Peruvian government declared a state of emergency and mobilized security forces in Cajamarca.

Protesters say the Conga mining project will pollute the area’s lakes and rivers, contaminating water supplies.

The demonstration came after Celendin Mayor Mauro Arteaga was said to have expressed support for the project.

Conga was approved in 2010 by former president Alan Garcia’s government. His successor President Ollanta Humala had been a backer of the project but insists potential environmental impacts must be weighed.

The open-pit project, located some 3,700 meters (12,140 feet) above sea level, involves moving the water from four lakes high in the Andes mountains into reservoirs the company would build.


Mining Industry’s Attempts at Transparency Falling Short in Peru

By Milagros Salazar – IPS

29 June 2012

A forum addressing community demands preceded the EITI international board meeting. Credit: Courtesy of Grupo Propuesta Ciudadana

LIMA (IPS) – Peru was certified as compliant with the global standard of the Extractive Industries Transparencies Initiative (EITI) earlier this year. However, its achievements have not satisfied the demands of the local population in mining and oil extraction zones.

Some 60 delegates of the international EITI board met in Lima on Wednesday and Thursday Jun. 27-28 to evaluate the adoption of stricter standards, because the activities of the mining and oil industries in Peru are not translating into sustainable development in local communities.

The sessions were marked by lengthy debates between representatives of the government of President Ollanta Humala, mining companies, civil society organisations and multilateral bodies like the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank.

Peru is the first country to qualify as EITI-compliant in Latin America, the region with the fewest governments participating in EITI, although it is hoped that more countries will gradually join the initiative. Colombia has recently committed to implement EITI, while Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago are aiming for compliance.

“Instead of just providing transparent information about revenues from natural resources, people really need to know how the resources are distributed and used,” economist Epifanio Baca, a leader of the Citizen Proposal Group (GPC), a member of the international EITI Board and a representative of civil society on the Peruvian EITI National Committee, told IPS.

“Accounting for how the income is spent is essential because it has a positive impact on improving people’s quality of life,” he said.

Founded in 2002, EITI is a global effort to get extractive industry companies to publish information about their tax and non-tax payments to the state, as a means of avoiding corruption.

So far, 35 countries have joined the initiative and 14 have been certified as compliant with the transparency standards, including Peru.

But being able to see how much the government is receiving from companies extracting natural resources has not diminished discontent among people living in mining or oil extraction areas, as Humala recognised Tuesday Jun. 26 at a conference on “Open Government and Transparency in Extractive Industries in Latin America and the Caribbean,” which preceded the EITI board sessions.

“It is still not enough to heal the cracks and fissures in our social fabric that date back to the birth of our republic. We need to do more,” Humala said.

In recent years Peru has lived through considerable social upheaval. During the government of president Alan García (2006-2011) the number of social conflicts shot up from a total of 82 in June 2006, to 217 in June 2011.

Most of the conflicts were over social and environmental issues, and they have taken a heavy human toll: close to 200 people were killed and over 2,000 were injured during protests between January 2006 and September 2011, according to reports from the ombudsman’s office.

Prospects have not been much more encouraging during the Humala administration, which has still not won over opponents of the controversial Conga mining project planned by Minera Yanacocha in the northern department (province) of Cajamarca., owned by the Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corporation.

Humala has just given the green light to the Conga project, which is not surprising since the extractive industry accounts for 75 percent of the country’s export earnings, according to Minister for Energy and Mines Jorge Merino.

EITI partners agree that transparency in extractive activities could contribute to calming social conflicts, not only in Peru but also in other Latin American countries.

Meanwhile, some civil society organisations belonging to the international EITI board argue that it is necessary to raise its standards and to decentralise information.

Baca said regional and municipal governments should also be held accountable and be required to provide accurate, comprehensible and straightforward information.

Kurt Burneo, a former Peruvian minister of production, agreed with Baca. “If you want social legitimacy, you have to build trust, and this will not happen without transparency,” he told IPS.

Carlos Aranda, technical services manager for the Southern Peru Copper Corporation and a business representative on the EITI-Peru National Committee, said it was important for companies not to hide behind anonymity, but instead to provide more and more information.

“Transparency is important, but we can’t report environmental impact studies in the main square, so that everyone can hear all about them. We can’t carry on suspecting everything and everyone and presuming there is always a deal going on under the table,” Aranda told IPS.

But the problems of distrust and disputes involving extractive industries are not exclusively a Peruvian preserve.

Célica Hernández of the Jubilee Foundation, a Bolivian NGO, told IPS that at the end of 2011, 2.2 billion dollars of natural resource revenues had not been disbursed by the various government agencies in Bolivia, an amount similar to the national income from oil and gas operations.

“Bolivians are really angry about this,” Hernández told IPS in a break between meetings. Bolivia has not joined EITI, but civil society groups are working to promote transparency.

In Colombia, too, conflicts are breaking out in some areas, according to Carlos Andrés Cante, the head of “mining formalisation” – responsible for regulating artisanal mining – in the Ministry of Energy and Mines. However, Colombia is still experiencing a boom in exploration, since most mining projects have not yet reached the production stage.

Colombia is already working on setting up a national EITI committee and making transparency part of state policy, Cante told IPS.

The countries of the region are progressing at different rates, but “increasingly, companies and governments are realising that no advances in this area can be achieved while secrecy and lack of legitimacy persist,” Baca said.