MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru: Three dead, many injured, as smallscale miners clash with police

Published by MAC on 2012-03-20
Source: Reuters, Andean Air Mail & Peruvian Times

Protests by Peruvian small-scale miners against what they view as draconian penalties for their activities, became violent last week.

Three miners were reported killed, and over thirty injured, when they clashed with police.

The Madre de Dios Mining Federation, which represents the workers, suspended its protests until 19th March, when it planned to hold talks with the government.

Previous story: Mining protests in Madre de Dios region, Peru


Informal Miners Temporarily Suspend Protests in Madre de Dios

Andean Air Mail & Peruvian Times

16 March 2012

Informal miners in Peru's south-eastern Madre de Dios department agreed on Thursday to temporarily lift protests that turned deadly on Wednesday, daily El Comercio reported.

A gold miner clashes with Peruvian riot policemen during protests in the country's Madre de Dios region
A gold miner clashes with Peruvian policemen during protests in
the country's Madre de Dios, March 14, 2012. Source: CNN

The head of the Madre de Dios Mining Federation, Luis Otzuka, said that illegal and informal miners will suspend protests until Monday, when they plan to come to Lima to hold talks with the government. The Minister of the Environment, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, expects to begin part of the talks this Saturday, although only with miners who accept to work within the mining corridor delimitations drawn up by the ministry.

"The truce will last while dialogue is ongoing. If we enter into real formalization, a real understanding, we will definitively suspend the protest," Otzuka said.

Protesting miners are calling on the government to revoke new decrees that hit their activity with tougher penalties, including 10 years in prison for mining in unauthorized areas and polluting the environment.

On Wednesday, the protests turned deadly when three people were killed and numerous injured. Local authorities have called on the government to declare a state-of-emergency. Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said Thursday that the measure would be a possibility if other measures failed to end the protests.

Illegal mining has led to the deforestation of large swaths of Madre de Dios' Amazon forests and the mercury-contamination of rivers in the region. In several areas, miners are encroaching on buffer zones and wildlife reserves in this megadiverse region that has begun to build sustainable development for indigenous communities through a successful and growing eco-tourism industry.

Peru mining protest turns deadly in Puerto Maldonado


14 March 2012

Three people have died and more than 30 have been injured in clashes between miners and police in Peru.

The miners are protesting against tougher penalties for illegal mining.

Local officials said police were far outnumbered by the protesters, who are trying to take control of the airport at the city of Puerto Maldonado.

The miners say the new rules will put them out of work, but the government says the sanctions will encourage miners to get the necessary permits.

An estimated 50,000 miners do not have a licence to operate.

Poisoned rivers

The government says large areas of jungle have been destroyed by illegal mining and large portions of the area's waterways show high levels of mercury, used in the mining operations.

Officials say they want the miners to obtain the correct permits and to abide by environmental rules, but the protesters accuse the government of wanting to hand over mining concessions only to large multinational companies.

The latest protests erupted after talks between the government and the miners broke down on Tuesday.

Regional officials said more than 10,000 miners tried to seize government buildings, markets and the airport in Puerto Maldonado.

Regional President Luis Aguirre described the situation as "untenable". "You can hear gunshots throughout the entire city," he said.

Police have asked for reinforcements as 700 officers were outnumbered by more than 10,000 protesters.

Informal miners also held protests in two other regions, in Piura in Peru's northwest and in Puno in the southern highlands bordering Bolivia.

Peru is one of the world's major gold producers and high prices have sparked a boom in recent years.

The government has urged the miners to return to the negotiating table for more talks scheduled for Friday, but it is not clear so far if the miners will attend.

One dead, 32 hurt as wildcat miners clash with Peru police


14 March 2012

At least one protester was killed and 32 people were injured on Wednesday as police in southeastern Peru clashed with wildcat miners opposed to a government crackdown on illegal gold mining, the interior minister and the ombudsman's office said.

Seven of those hurt in the Amazon region of Madre de Dios were policemen, officials said of the incident, which comes as President Ollanta Humala tries to manage some 200 disputes nationwide over natural resources in one of the world's top metals exporters.

Two people have died in protests since Humala took office in July. Humala has sought to defuse social conflicts by urging mediation to avert violence that plagued his predecessor, Alan Garcia. More than 100 people died in environmental protests that turned violent during Garcia's term.

The government is trying to stop informal gold mining in the Amazon region by seizing dredging equipment and other tools. The mining has been blamed for turning swaths of rainforest into a toxic desert and polluting rivers with mercury used to isolate gold.

"We've detained 40 people and we are trying to catch the leaders of illegal mining that caused this problem," Interior Minister Daniel Lozada told reporters. "The clashes caused one death, which is unfortunate."

Wildcat miners from Madre de Dios, a restive region on the border with Brazil, are politically active.

Eulogio Amado Romero, a congressman from Madre de Dios, was suspended from Humala's coalition in September for having ties to wildcat gold mining.

Romero - who is known by the nickname Come Oro, or Gold Eater - has denied local media reports that he helped organize the protests.

"Violence has occurred today because the protesters have blocked key roads," said Guimo Loaiza of Peru's ombudsman's office in Madre de Dios. "They responded with sticks and stones when police tried to restore order."

Wildcat miners are demanding the government throw out decrees Humala issued that toughen laws against illegal mining and give the government more power to seize their equipment.

"The decrees have demonized us and turned us into criminals," said Julio Luna, a leader of the wildcat miners.

Even as it cracks down on wildcat mining the government has encouraged the construction of big, modern mines - like the $4.8 billion Conga gold project of U.S.-based Newmont Mining.

That project has been delayed by local community opposition to the project over concerns it would replace a series of alpine lakes in the northern region of Cajamarca with artificial reservoirs.

(Reporting By Omar Mariluz, Enrique Mandujano, Teresa Cespedes and Terry Wade; Editing by David Brunnstrom and Cynthia Osterman)

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