MAC: Mines and Communities

Six workers killed in protests

Published by MAC on 2010-04-08
Source: Reuters

Peru's president viciously cracks down on smallscale miners

e might have seen the writing on the wall.

In what seems a gratuitous attempt to gild his tarnished image, Peru's president Alan Garica has ordered a crackdown on so-called "wildcat", or smallscale,  mining.  Garcia is now demanding the miners clean up their act and start paying taxes.

The state action has been brutal - with six mineworkers already murdered by police earlier this week.

It's a savage irony is that, under Garcia's rule, many large or medium-scale mining companies have been allowed into Peru that then violate basic social and environmental norms with apparent impunity.

The leader of the "wildcat miners" agrees that artisanal extraction causes pollution which "must be mitigated."

But, adds Teodula Medina, this "cannot be through repression".



Six die in protest by wildcat miners in Peru


5 April 2010

LIMA - Six people died in Peru when police tried to clear a roadblock set by wildcat miners protesting a government measure to impose environmental controls on them, police said on Monday in the latest round of conflict over natural resources.

The violence broke out on Sunday in the southern province of Arequipa, and hundreds of protesters were still blocking a piece of the country's main highway to Chile, police said.

Miners say the new measure, which aims to limit dredging in rivers, would leave them without jobs. Environmental groups blame wildcat gold miners for dumping toxic mercury into forests and streams.

President Alan Garcia has often struggled to win the support of rural groups, and violence periodically breaks out between police and protesters opposed to his natural resources policies.

Two dozen people died last year in Peru's Amazon basin as indigenous groups rejected laws designed to lure foreign investment in mining and oil concessions to the rain forest.

Protestors block Pan-American highway in Peru


5 April 2010

Some 6,000 miners Sunday staged a strike in Peru's Arequipa department to protest the government's reordering of small mining activities, blocking three sections of the Pan-American South Highway.

At least 200 vehicles were stranded as a result of the blockade, causing huge traffic jam in the morning, Arequipa's highway protection chief Miguel Pasos said.

Police efforts were not enough to restore the traffic on the highway that connects Arequipa to Lima, he added.

The Pan-American Highway is a network of roads stretching about 48,000 km and links the mainland countries of the Americas in a connected highway system.

Peru declares state of emergency in seven provinces, facing informal miners' strike

Isabel Guerra

2 April 2010

Facing the possibility of an indefinite strike that may mobilize thousands of informal miners nationwide, the government declared the state of emergency in seven southern Provinces: Nazca, Palpa and San Juan de Marcona in Ica region, Tambopata and Manu in Madre de Dios region, and Caravelí and Camaná in Arequipa region.

The Supreme Decree 042-2010-PCM indicates that this measure will be effective for 60 days, during which the internal control will be in charge of the Police, with the support of the Armed Forces.

Teódulo Medina Gutiérrez, leader of the Federation of Informal Miners, told the press that they want the government to repeal the emergency decree 012-2010, regarding the reorganization of the informal mining activities in Madre de Dios region, a decree that they consider as "inconstitutional."

They also want the Environment Minister, Antonio Brack, to be removed from office.

Tense Standoff In Peru As Protest Turns Deadly

Miguel Zegarra


7 April 2010

Thousands of Peruvian wildcat miners were locked in a tense standoff with police on Monday after six people were killed during a protest against stricter environmental controls imposed by the government.

The violence broke out near the town of Chala, 372 miles south of the capital Lima, on Sunday when police tried to clear a roadblock set by the miners on the Panamerican Highway leading to Chile.

Two of the dead were bystanders, including a taxi driver struck by a stray bullet and a woman who suffered a heart attack. Police said 20 protesters and nine officers were injured in the country's latest conflict over natural resources.

Protesters wielding clubs and rocks continued to block a stretch of the road on Monday and traffic was snarled in both directions. Interior Minister Octavio Salazar vowed to try again in the coming hours to break the blockade, where some 3,800 miners are pitted against 1,200 police officers.

President Alan Garcia, whose term has been marred by periodic clashes over his natural resources policies, said wildcat miners must pay taxes and stop polluting.

"How can we permit a savage type of mining that doesn't pay taxes, doesn't pay proper wages and doesn't use modern equipment ... and which continues to contaminate the Amazon?" Garcia said.

Peru is a leading exporter of zinc, copper and gold and a major importer of mercury, most of which ends up in the hands of wildcat miners who use it to isolate gold from clumps of mud and rock. Wildcat miners produce 10 to 20 percent of all gold in Peru, the world's No. 6 producer of the precious metal.

Members of Garcia's administration attempted to pin blame for the unrest on the left-wing Nationalist Party of Ollanta Humala, saying his party helped organize the protests.

Humala dismissed the charges as smears aimed at derailing his bid for the presidency in 2011. He said Garcia's government has failed to avert social conflicts.

"The government wants to point fingers, yet the people to blame are in the government," Humala said.

Financial markets tanked in 2006 when Humala nearly won the presidency. He is now a distant third in opinion polls for the next election, and Garcia, who cannot run for a second term, has said he will do everything he can to make sure a centrist candidate wins in 2011.

Mercury Pollution Versus Jobs

Miners say Garcia's new measures, which aim to limit dredging in rivers and prevent wildcat mining in nature reserves, would leave them without jobs and that they need the work to support their families.

Environmental groups say wildcat gold miners dump toxic mercury into forests and streams.

Miners blamed police for the violence and there were conflicting reports that some protesters had guns.

"Pollution must be mitigated ... but not through repression," Teodulo Medina, head of Peru's national association of wildcat miners, said on RPP radio.

His group represents some 300,000 miners who work in rough conditions in hundreds of informal mines in the country's desert coast, the Andean highlands and the Amazon basin.

Residents in poor isolated towns say Garcia has pushed investment by big foreign mining and oil companies but done little to fight poverty, which affects more than a third of all Peruvians.

Two dozen people died last year in Peru's Amazon basin as indigenous groups rejected laws designed to lure billions of dollars in investment in mining and oil concessions to the rain forest.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Velez, Terry Wade and Marco Aquino; editing by Paul Simao)

Peru: Investigate Killings in Chala

State of Emergency Does Not Alter Obligation To Protect the Right to Life

José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director

Human Rights Watch

6 April 2010

An independent and impartial investigation is absolutely critical to ensure that those responsible for these killings are brought to justice.

(Washington, DC) - Peru should conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation into the killing of 6 civilians during a confrontation with the police in Chala, Human Rights Watch said today.

On April 4, 2010, approximately 200 members of the police tried to disperse a demonstration of at least 6,000 miners, who had closed a major highway in Chala, in Caravelí province, according to local press reports. The reports said that demonstrators threw stones and sticks at the police, and the police used tear gas and opened live fire to disperse the demonstration.

According to the local press reports and non-governmental organizations, the police gunfire killed five demonstrators and wounded about 30 others. A woman who was not participating in the events reportedly died of a heart attack.

"An independent and impartial investigation is absolutely critical to ensure that those responsible for these killings are brought to justice," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

The demonstrators were calling for the repeal of a presidential decree issued in February that aimed at regulating illegal mining in Madre de Dios.

Local press reported that on the evening of April 5, demonstrators agreed to end the blockade and to allow vehicles to go by for two hours in exchange for the release of 28 demonstrators who had been detained after the confrontation. Only one demonstrator, who allegedly had explosives, remained in detention.

Several government officials said publicly that the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in the region on April 1 and suspended certain rights in the expectation of protests over the mining decree. Victor García Toma, Peru's minister of justice, said in a televised interview that the demonstration in Chala was a "delinquent act" that was "totally unreasonable" and "has no legal support."

"If the government expected demonstrations, it should have issued clear instructions to security forces that efforts to restore order must be consistent with international human rights standards," Vivanco said. "Using lethal force to disperse a demonstration is not permitted simply by declaring a state of emergency. Any use of force must be absolutely necessary and strictly proportionate, even in states of emergency."

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Peru in April 1978, and the American Convention on Human Rights, ratified by Peru in July 1978, state that the right to life is non-derogable during states of emergency.

The UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary, and Summary Executions also make clear that "exceptional circumstances including a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency may not be invoked as a justification of such executions. Such executions shall not be carried out under any circumstances including, but not limited to ... excessive or illegal use of force by a public official..."

The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provides that law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence. The legitimate objective should be achieved with minimal damage and injury, and preservation of human life respected.

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