MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru: Governor opposing Newmont Mine is jailed

Published by MAC on 2014-06-26
Source: Reuters, Bloomberg, Independent, BN Americas (2014-07-01)

The human rights organisation Front Line Defenders has published a report expressing concern for human rights defenders in Peru, particularly those critical of extractive industries.

The governor of Cajamarca, Gregorio Santos, who has been a staunch opponent of Newmont's controversial Minas Conga gold project, has been jailed while a state investigation into corruption is being conducted. Very convenient for those trying to promote the project.

Peru jails main opponent of Newmont's stalled Conga gold project

Reuters

25 June 2014

A federal judge in Lima has ordered a regional president detained for 14 months while prosecutors prepare corruption charges against the official, who is the main opponent of Newmont Mining's $5 billion stalled Conga gold project.

Judge Mercedes Caballero ruled at a hearing on Wednesday that Gregorio Santos, president of the mineral-rich Cajamarca region in northern Peru, must be held before being tried because he might flee the country or disrupt the corruption inquiry now under way.

Santos' arrest comes just months before he planned to seek a second four-year term as regional president, effectively clearing the electoral path for candidates who might favor the project.

Judge Caballero said Santos would have to remain in custody for 14 months while the prosecution prepares its case, less than the 18 months requested. If Santos is tried and found innocent before then, he could be released.

Santos, a member of the communist party Patria Roja and a former peasant patrol leader, led dozens of protests against Conga that forced U.S.-based Newmont to suspend construction on its Conga gold project in 2011.

Prosecutor Walter Delgado said Santos received bribes from companies in exchange for awarding 11 local public work contracts.

Santos has denied wrongdoing and said his appearance at the public hearing was an indication he had no intention of fleeing.

"I am not running away," Santos told the judge. "I'm here at your disposal and the disposal of justice."

Santos has called the current inquiry and others before it political persecution aimed at removing him from power so the Conga project can go forward.

Santos' lawyer will file an appeal, said Olmedo Auris, a political leader close to Santos.

After Santos was escorted away by police, a small group of supporters protested the judge's decision outside the courthouse.

Santos is the third regional president in Peru to be detained in recent months as the attorney general's office aims to crack down on corruption of provincial officials.

The Conga project would offset dwindling gold deposits at Newmont's nearby Yanacocha mine, which is nearing the end of its life. Opponents say Conga would pollute or deplete water sources used by Andean peasants and have rejected the company's plans to build reservoirs for community use.

Newmont controls 51.35 percent of Conga, and Peruvian mining company Buenaventura holds 43.65 percent. (Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Ken Wills)


Peru Judge Jails Governor Opposed to Newmont Mine Amid Probe

By John Quigley

Bloomberg

26 June 2014

The governor who supported protests against Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM)'s Minas Conga gold project in Peru was ordered to jail for 14 months amid a probe of allegations officials in his government took bribes, state news agency Andina reported.

Judge Mercedes Caballero authorized the detention of Cajamarca Governor Gregorio Santos while prosecutors prepare their case, Andina reported today. The state government's main office and Santos's chief adviser, Cesar Abanto, didn't answer telephone calls made after business hours seeking comment on his detention and response to allegations.

Newmont and local partner Cia. de Minas Buenaventura SAA postponed work on the $5 billion Minas Conga project in Cajamarca in 2012 after farmers staged protests over its impact on water supplies. Santos, who said in 2011 and 2012 the project wasn't viable environmentally, will now be unable to run for re-election, possibly allowing mining companies to revive projects in the state, said Cesar Perez-Novoa, head of research at BTG Pactual in Santiago.

"It could potentially unlock investment in the region, and of course, Minas Conga," Perez-Novoa said by telephone. "If the perception of risk changes as a result, it will trigger the deployment of capital, de-bottleneck some mining projects and increase the incentive for exploration."

The governor hasn't been found guilty of a crime and is in a temporary holding cell, Andina reported in its online edition.

A former school teacher who's in the last year of his four-year mandate, Santos denied any wrongdoing in a May 16 interview with newspaper La Republica. His party, the Movement for Social Affirmation, registered him this week as their candidate to run for re-election on Oct. 5.

Newmont and Buenaventura are considering plans to develop Conga as a smaller mine than initially planned, Buenaventura Chief Executive Officer Roque Benavides told reporters May 22. Building the mine hinges on obtaining political and community support, he said.

Newmont rose 0.8 percent to $24.88 today in New York and Buenaventura increased 0.1 percent to $10.68.


Peru governor to fight gold project from prison

Reuters

1 July 2014

LIMA - The jailed governor of a mineral-rich region in Peru who helped derail Newmont's $5 billion (£2.9 billion) Conga gold project will run for re-election on an anti-mining ticket this year from prison, his party said on Monday.

A federal judge in Lima last week ordered Gregorio Santos imprisoned for 14 months, saying he might flee the country while public prosecutors prepare corruption charges against him.

Peruvian law does not prohibit detained citizens from running for office unless sentenced with a crime, the electoral authority said.

Santos will continue to appeal to detractors of the Conga project in Peru's northern region of Cajamarca by going forward with his campaign, said Olmedo Auris, vice president of Santos's party, Movimiento de Afirmacion Social, or MAS.

Porfirio Medina will campaign for Santos on the ground in Cajamarca as his deputy governor and run his office if they win, Auris said. Regional elections are in October.

Santos's bid clouds expectations that Newmont and junior partner Buenaventura will get Conga off the ground now that its most powerful opponent is behind bars.

The companies stopped construction on the massive gold project in 2011 after protests led by Santos, a fiery former peasant patrol leader, ended in clashes with police.

Buenaventura's share price jumped 6.94 percent after Santos was imprisoned last Wednesday. Conga would offset dwindling gold deposits at the companies' nearby Yanacocha mine.

Opponents say Conga would pollute or deplete water sources used by Andean peasants, and they have rejected the companies' plans to build reservoirs for community use.

It is unclear how much support Santos still has with voters in Cajamarca, which ranked as the country's poorest region last year with more than half of its population living in poverty, according to state statistics agency Inei.

Auris said Santos's campaign will emphasize Conga and his imprisonment, which he described as politically motivated and intended to pave the way for the project.

The public prosecutor investigating Santos said last week that Santos got kickbacks on 11 local public works projects.

Santos has denied the accusations. He is the third governor put in preventive prison in recent months as the attorney general's office cracks down on corruption of local officials.

Newmont controls 51.35 percent of Conga, Buenaventura 43.65 percent, and the International Finance Corporation 5 percent.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Leslie Adler)


Front Line Defenders launches report and video on human rights defenders in Peru

Front Line Defenders Press release

19 June 2014

Dublin - Front Line Defenders visited Peru in February 2014 and travelled extensively in the Cajamarca and Cusco regions investigating ongoing conflict between mining companies and indigenous and campesino rights defenders. This report is based on field research and interviews with independent human rights defenders and civil society organisations. A 12-minute video accompanying this report is available at frontlinedefenders.org/peru-reportonhumanrightsdefenders

Front Line Defenders expresses its deep concern regarding the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) working on human rights and environmental issues related to the extractive industries in Peru. They live and work in a very tense situation and have been the direct target of intimidation, death threats, physical attacks, surveillance, stigmatisation, smear campaigns, and judicial harassment. All these documented instances appear to be directly related to legitimate and peaceful work carried out by the HRDs concerned, in particular in supporting the local communities opposed to mining projects and their impact on their environment, territory and livelihood.

"Front Line Defenders has noted with deep concern a trend across the region of governments trampling over the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and of those defending them in their rapacious search for raw materials and profit. The Government of Peru has an obligation to respect the rights of all its citizens and to protect those brave human rights defenders who speak out on their behalf" said Front Line Defenders Deputy Director Andrew Anderson, at the launch of the report.

Peru is one of the largest producers of silver and copper in the world and the 5th largest producer of gold. The government has granted mining licences for huge areas of the national territory extending to 45% of the territory of Cajamarca province and 21% of the territory of Cusco province. These projects have brought the authorities and mining companies into conflict with indigenous peoples and campesino communities who exist on the basis of subsistence farming and whose way of life and well-being have been undermined. Local communities are particularly concerned about access to water, as rivers have been polluted and water courses have dried up.

Intense local opposition to mining has been met with a violent response by the state and excessive use of force by the police and the army in dealing with protests and demonstrations. Of particular concern is the adoption of a law in January 2014 that granted to the armed forces and the national police immunity from prosecution for death or injuries caused while on duty.

400 protesters and HRDs are currently facing prosecution on the basis of charges lodged by the mining companies, their staff or the public prosecutor. In many cases these charges are nothing more than a form of judicial harassment in that there is no evidence to back them up. Mr Milton Sanchez of the Plataforma Interinstitucional Celendin has had 50 court proceedings but has never been convicted. However these spurious proceedings take up valuable time and resources and distract from the core work of the organisation.

Many of the environmental HRDs Front Line Defenders interviewed expressed their feelings of fear at living under constant threats, as well as the daily stress of expecting to find another notice on their homes, or that they will receive notice of another lawsuit.

"It is very difficult and dangerous to be a human rights defender in this environment" says HRD Ms Ruth Luque from Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras, while HRD Mr Vidal Merma affirms that there is a smear campaign "against spokespeople or journalists who are exposing the truth about the death of animals, the problems of the communities and the destruction of the environment."

This report addresses ten recommendations to the Government of Peru which, if implemented, would contribute significantly to improving the situation for environmental rights defenders and to Peru's respect of its obligations under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

A 12-minute video accompanying this report is available at frontlinedefenders.org/peru-reportonhumanrightsdefenders

The report can be read in full here.

For further information please contact:

Jim Loughran, Head of Communications, Front Line Defenders

+353 87 231 60 49+353 87 231 60 49, jim[at]frontlinedefenders.org

Tere Palop, Protection Coordinator, Front Line Defenders

+57 312 447 9623+57 312 447 9623, tere[at]frontlinedefenders.org (for interviews in Spanish)


Peruvian police and soldiers given 'licence to kill' protesters five years after Bagua violence

Lizzie Dearden

Independent

30 June 2014

Five years after more than 30 people died in a bloody battle between police and environmental protesters in Peru, police and the armed forces have been granted a "licence to kill" demonstrators.

The move has sparked fears among human rights groups that there will be no reprieve for any excessive use of force as the mining industry continues to push into indigenous lands in Peru.

The country is one of the world's largest producers of silver, copper and minerals and the Peruvian Government has granted mining licences for huge parts of rural provinces.

Local communities worried about its effect on their farmland and way of life, as well as pollution in rivers, have come into conflict with authorities through years of protests.

In June 2009, 33 people died in Bagua in the Amazonas region, when police and protesters clashed at a road blockade over a new law allowing mining companies to enter indigenous territories without the community's consent.

When police moved in to disperse the 2,000 Aguaruna and Wampi Indians, many of whom were carrying spears and machetes, violence broke out killing 23 police officers and 10 civilians.

A further 200 people were injured in the violence, 80 of whom had been shot, and witnesses reported police firing bullets and tear gas and beating unarmed protesters.

A trial of 53 people, mostly from the Awajun and Wampís communities, for their alleged responsibility for acts of violence and killing the police officers started on 14 May this year.

They are among 400 protesters and activists facing prosecution on the basis of charges lodged by the mining companies, their staff or the public prosecutor, according to a report by the Dublin-based human rights group Front Line Defenders (FLD).

No charges have been brought against police for protesters' deaths or injuries and the group is concerned that their new legal immunity will worsen the situation.

Andrew Anderson, the deputy director of FLD, said: "Front Line Defenders has noted with deep concern a trend across the region of governments trampling over the rights of local and indigenous communities and of those defending them in their rapacious search for raw materials and profit.

"The Government of Peru has an obligation to respect the rights of all its citizens and to protect those brave human rights defenders who speak out on their behalf."

Law 30151, which was adopted in January, states that members of the armed forces and the National Police are "exempt from criminal responsibility" if they cause injury or death through the use of their guns or other weapons while on duty.

Intimidation, death threats, surveillance and "judicial harassment" has also been reported by activists working against oil and mining companies in Peru.

Although the vast majority of cases have not led to prosecution, the report argues that the judicial system is being abused to smear environmental activists as "violent extremists".

The FLD is calling on Peru's government to repeal the "licence to kill" law for the police and armed forces and fully investigate reported harassment and brutality.

Amnesty International has also called on Peruvian authorities to ensure everyone suspected of crimes at Bagua is brought to justice.

On a statement on the fifth anniversary of the violence, on 5 June, the group said the Government must "uphold the rights of indigenous people to ancestral lands, their means of survival and the right to free prior and informed consent on all matters that affect them".

Guadalupe Marengo, the group's Americas deputy programme director, said: ""If the Peruvian authorities are truly committed to bringing to justice those suspected of criminal responsibility for these deaths, it is not enough to punish the protesters and ignore possible abuses by the police.

"The authorities must learn from the lessons of Bagua."


Peru stimulus plan won't change mining EIAs, says Humala

By Alex Emery

BN Americas

27 June 2014

Peru's government, which aims to push through an economic stimulus package next month, including a streamlined permitting process for the mining industry, will not lower environmental standards, President Ollanta Humala said.

Human rights organizations and opposition parties protested on Thursday against the measures in downtown Lima, claiming a fast track permitting process for miners will harm the environment and violate indigenous rights.

The measures, which include tax breaks and a simplified system for state purchases, aim to jumpstart the country's flagging economy and create jobs after GDP growth slowed to a five-year low in April, Humala said. Congress is expected to vote on the measures before mid-July.

"All the environmental parameters will be preserved," Humala told reporters at a public ceremony in Lima. "We're trying to modernize the state. With these measures, we're trying to produce more investment."

The measures reflect pressure on the government by interest groups in the extractive industries, former deputy environment minister José de Echave said.

"This serious setback will result in environmental impact studies being approved faster, without the state being prepared to carry out a rigorous evaluation," Lima-based newspaper cited Echave as saying.

Gross domestic product expanded 2% in April, the slowest quarterly growth rate since 2009, as mining production fell 10%, according to the national statistics institute. Exports are also expected to fall this year on slumping metals prices, according to exporter group Adex.

Permitting delays are holding up about US$22bn in investment projects, most of them in mining, according to the country's largest business group Confiep.

Mining companies in Peru, the world's third largest copper and zinc producer, will invest US$9bn in projects this year, according to the national society of mining, petroleum and energy (SNMPE).

The government is counting on Chinalco's recently inaugurated US$3.5bnToromocho copper mine, Glencore's US$5.1bn Las Bambas mine, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold's US$4.6bn Cerro Verde expansion and Hudbay Minerals' US$1.7bn Constancia project to double annual copper production to 2.8Mt/y by 2017.

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