Peru Miners On AlertPublished by MAC on 2005-06-16
Peru miners on alert
June 16, 2005
MAJOR international miners BHP Billiton and Newmont Mining have been warned they could soon face further serious outbursts of civil unrest at their Peruvian operations, with hundreds of police officers now stationed to protect the Yanacocha, Pierina and Antamina mines.
According to a Reuters report, US-based gold miner Newmont said it expects to be the target of violent anti-mining demonstrations at its Yanacocha mine today, while BHPB's massive Tintaya copper mine remains shut after more than 2000 peasants broke into the mine and vandalised it last month.
Yanacocha, 350km northwest of the capital Lima, is the world's second largest gold mine and the country's largest source of tax revenue.
A Peruvian police spokesman said it had received forewarning that the country's major mines would be targeted by protestors who had also threatened the use of force in the upcoming demonstrations.
"We have sent police to Antamina, Pierina and Yanacocha. They are the three main targets for communities who are threatening to protest with force," he said.
According to a Bloomberg report, Newmont Vice President Carlos Santa Cruz spoke recently of the imminent attacks, saying the company's exploration efforts were being hampered as a result.
"The level of violence is increasing. Troublemakers have threatened the mine in several exploration areas to the north. We ask that the law be respected," he said.
An American-based Newmont spokesman said the company would be taking the necessary security precautions.
According to a Dow Jones report, Carlos Del Solar, president of the private sector National Mining, Petroleum and Energy Society, said the violence was in response to a perception that major mining companies were not investing enough in community development.
"We can't work in this climate. The companies are replacing the state, in health, housing, education, and on top of this they are being criticised for not investing sufficiently in social programs," he said.
"We have information that acts of violence are being prepared against various mining centres. We are coordinating with the interior ministry to protect the mines."
Last month BHPB's major copper mine in Peru, Tintaya, was temporarily shut down after protestors outlined a list of demands including that the company increase its community payments from $US1.5 million per year to $US20 million. The government is still trying to negotiate the reopening of the mine.
Newmont's Yanacocha mine was also the target of protestors last year when the major road to the mine was blocked. Protestors argued that development of the Cerro Quillish prospect would result in a number of serious environmental issues to the local community. The exploration permit to the site was subsequently terminated by the government.
Both the Pierina mine, owned by Canada's Barrick Gold, and Antamina, owned by four major international miners including BHPB, were also said to be targeted in the latest round of protests.