New protest in Peru cost 2 lives, the arrest of one Mayor, and 2 legislators quit
The Peruvian Government is once again struggling to tame social conflicts related to mining operations in the country.
President Ollanta Humala has for a second time called for a suspension of freedom of assembly and military intervention, this time focussed on the area of Espinar in the Cusco Region, in relation to operations by Swiss giant Xstrata.
The first suspension was just months ago in Cajamarca in relation to the controversial Conga project owned by Newmont Gold which continues to be 'unresolved'. See: Peru's Highest Court Sides With Central Government In Conga Case
In Espinar the Government's strategy to deal with the conflict has cost the lives of 2 people, injured 50, and led to the arrest of the mayor of Espinar. 2 legislators from the ruling party have quit over how the affair has been handled.
Previous article on MAC: Peru uses emergency rules to end violent protests at Xstrata mine
Mining investment worth $50 billion in the balance as Peruvian lawmakers quit
By Cecilia Jamasmie
5 June 2012
Two lawmakers from President Ollanta Humala's ruling Gana Peru party resigned on Monday over the government's handling of protests against Swiss based-Xstrata in southeastern Peru last week.
Rosa Mavila and Javier Diez-Canseco, key figures in left-wing politics, resigned, leaving a letter addressed to Humala, which said the government had taken a "confrontational" stance against mining protesters, and rejected dialogue.
"Those who were defeated in the elections have become co-governors," the legislators said, referring to Humala's change in policy since taking office.
Minister of Economy, Luis Castilla, told local news outlet Peru 21 that social and environmental protests against mining in the country are threatening billions of dollars in planned mining exploration and project development in the Latin America's biggest gold producer.
Currently the country is under a state of emergency, issued by the government last week, after two people were killed and dozens of police officers injured the violent anti-mining protests against Xstrata's Tintaya mine late May.
This is the second time the Peruvian government issues a state of emergency in the last six month. The last time was in December, in an effort to quell protests against Newmont Mining's Conga gold project that caused the company to halt its operations.
Other Canadian miners with operations in Peru include Barrick Gold Corp., Pan American Silver Corp., Hudbay Minerals Inc., First Quantum Minerals Ltd., Rio Alto Mining Ltd. and Candente Copper Corp.
Peru is the world's second biggest producer of copper and silver and a major producer of gold, zinc, lead and other minerals. The country's extractive sector, which accounts for some 60% of the economy, is expected to bring Peru $50 billion in future investment over the next decade.
Peru to Launch Environmental Review to Calm Mining Protesters
Dow Jones Newswires
8 June 2012
Peru's government said Friday it was launching an environmental review of the southern Andean province of Espinar in an attempt to reassure local residents who held violent protests last week against a copper mine.
Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said during a news conference that the review will clear up concerns about potential environmental pollution in Espinar. "The objective is to identify exactly what is the environmental- and public-health situation in Espinar," Mr. Pulgar-Vidal said.
A number of mining projects in Peru, a major producer of base and precious metals, have been targeted by protesters recently over environmental concerns.
In late May, residents clashed with police during protests against Anglo-Swiss company Xstrata PLC's Tintaya copper mine. The government declared a state of emergency in the province after two people were killed and dozens were injured.
Protesters had taken to the streets over demands for Xstrata to increase contributions to a fund for local sustainable-development projects and citing worries that the mine was contaminating the area. Government and company officials had denied that the mine has caused pollution.
The conflict led to the resignation of four legislators from President Ollanta Humala's ruling Gana Peru party. The lawmakers had called for Prime Minister Oscar Valdes to be fired over his handling of social conflicts in Peru's mining sector.
On Friday, Mr. Valdes said he hopes the environmental study in Espinar will reassure residents. "We want the population of Espinar to know that the central government is ready to defend the environment," Mr. Valdes told reporters.
Peru anti-mining protest leader arrested near Cusco
30 May 2012
Riot police clash with protesters in Peru Demonstrators are angry at the amount of royalties the mine is willing to pay to the local government
Peruvian police have arrested the leader of anti-mining protests a day after the government declared a state of emergency in a southern province.
Herbert Huaman was among several activists detained, following more than a week of demonstrations against a mining project by Swiss company Xstrata.
The copper mine dispute in Espinar province, near Cusco, is over environmental issues and pay.
Two protesters were killed on Monday.
The deaths prompted the Peruvian government to declare the state of emergency, which will be in place for 30 days.
Mr Huaman is the president of the Front for the Defence of Espinar.
Shortly before being arrested, he called on president Ollanta Humala to lift the state of emergency in Espinar "to initiate the dialogue and resolve the environmental problems".
In a statement, the Peruvian Interior Ministry said Mr Huaman was arrested because he was calling for more protests.
The statement adds that 24 other people have been arrested since the emergency measures came into force.
The mayor of Espinar, Oscar Mollohuanca Cruz, has gone into hiding to avoid detention.
Freedom of assembly has been suspended and police given special powers.
The government says the move is to restore public order.
This is the second anti-mining protest faced by Mr Humala in his 10-month presidency.
Last December, civil liberties were also restricted in the northern region of Cajamarca where opposition to the construction of a huge gold mine by an American company continues.
Peru uses emergency rules to try to end anti-mining protest
By Marco Aquino and Terry Wade
28 May 2012
Lima - Two people were killed and 50 were injured in protests against Xstrata's Peruvian copper mine Tintaya on Monday, prompting the government to suspend freedom of assembly in a bid to break roadblocks isolating the mine.
At least 30 of the injured were police and one judicial official was detained by protesters in the mountainous southern region of Cusco, officials said.
President Ollanta Humala, a former military officer like Prime Minister Oscar Valdes, has urged mediation to avert violence, but critics say he has become impatient with intransigent protesters and too willing to rely on authoritarian tactics to maintain order.
The latest protest over the spoils of natural resource wealth is one of hundreds of disputes that Humala has tried to defuse. The conflicts threaten to delay billions of dollars in investments in a sector that drives 60 percent of exports in Peru's fast-growing economy. They also test Humala's ability to resolve conflicts in an often polarized political environment.
"What we are dealing with isn't a peaceful protest. We are dealing with extremists," Valdes said in a nationwide TV address.
It was at least the second time the Humala administration has used emergency rules that give the army special police powers and prohibit people from gathering in groups to end anti-mining protests in one of the world's leading minerals exporters.
At least 10 people have died in disputes over natural resources since Humala took office in July. At least 174 people died in similar protests during the government of his predecessor, Alan Garcia - marring his term.
The Tintaya protest has blocked transport links, but the global firm's mine is operating normally and its port on the Pacific coast has stocks of concentrates for the time being, a company executive said.
Despite being hit by the week-long protest, Xstrata is committed to investing in Peru and its $1.5 billion expansion to the Tintaya mine is on track to open in late August, said Luis Rivera, the company's operations director for Peru.
Protesters in the province of Espinar say the mine causes pollution and want the company to boost financial donations it makes to the local government of Espinar, which the company has rejected, saying its voluntary contributions are already very generous.
'Radical Political Position'
"Our local contribution is 30 million soles ($11 million) a year, which isn't a little," Rivera said. "We give 3 percent of our pretax profits to the province of Espinar and they want us to raise this to 30 percent."
Espinar, like many local and regional governments in Peru, is periodically hit by anti-mining protests by poor residents who say they have not seen the benefits of the country's decade-long economic boom. The central government and miners criticize local governments for lacking the capacity to spend tax revenue and say they are sitting on piles of cash.
"The municipal budget in Espinar is 190 million soles a year, and it only manages to spend 30 percent, and they are asking for more money," Rivera said.
He said all serious studies have shown the mine fully complies with all environmental standards and that complaints of the protesters over water quality were being trumped up for political reasons.
"There is a radical political position behind all of this," Rivera said.
Humala, a former leftist who now firmly supports projects proposed by foreign mining companies, has said the far-left, while small, has tried to stop big mining projects as part of a push to expand its influence.
Protests against the $4.8 billion Conga mine in northern Peru, the largest project in the history of the country, have already delayed U.S.-based Newmont Mining's (NEM.N) timetable for the mine.
"We are interested in dialogue and the development of Espinar, but we find ourselves facing a very radical opposition," Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino said in a statement from his office.
"There is a radical current that says no to Antapaccay and no to Las Bambas. This means they don't want mining, which is unacceptable," the minister said.
Rivera said the company's Antapaccay copper project, which is essentially an expansion of Tintaya that would almost double capacity to 160,000 tonnes a year, is on track to open in late August.
The existing part of Tintaya is slated to end operations in 2014 and Antapaccay would stay open to 2030 or beyond. Tintaya currently produces about 90,000 tonnes a year of copper.
Xstrata is also working on its $4.2 billion Las Bambas project in southern Peru. It would produce an average of 400,000 tonnes of copper concentrate plus gold, silver and molybdenum byproducts. The company's website says it would open by the end of 2014.
"Las Bambas is in the engineering phase. Obviously any political noise in the area affects all projects in southern Peru," Rivera said.