MAC: Mines and Communities

Peruvian citizens hold miners hostage

Published by MAC on 2009-01-26

A group of local Peruvians has taken hostage employees of a mining company - saying they will only be released when the government investigates alleged environmental damage to their land.

Minera Afrodita employees still held hostage by Peruvian protestors

Humpani protestors say they will release their hostages when the Peruvian government assesses so-called environmental damage at Minera Afrodita.


21st January 2009

LIMA Four employees of Minera Afrodita and two people who were traveling with them in northern Peru were held hostage for the sixth day on Tuesday, taken by protesters upset over mining development, the company said.

The group, which includes two administrative workers, two security guards, their boat captain and his helper, was seized on Thursday in the remote town of Huampani. The company said its workers were there to invite local leaders to a meeting to talk about mining projects.

Conflicts between companies and communities, which worry about the social and environmental impact of mining, are common in Peru, a major metals producer.

"When they showed up in Huampani to deliver the invitation ... they were kidnapped," said Carlos Ballon, director at Minera Afrodita.

Afrodita has mining concessions near Peru's northern border, where it is looking for gold. A small Canadian miner, Dorato Resources , has the rights to buy up to 100 percent of the company's shares.

Peru's mining and energy ministry has said it would send a commission to the area to discuss the community's demands, but not before the hostages are let go.

Local leaders say the hostages will be released when a government group arrives to access what they claim is the environmental damage done by the miner.

Indigenous groups accuse the company of engaging in exploration activity, which would require community consent. The company says it is not exploring, just prospecting.

"This company has initiated operations in our land only with the approval of the Peruvian government, which has never requested our opinion," Huampani leaders wrote in a letter to native communities in Canada, asking for their support.

The office of Peru's ombudsman has arranged for a team of doctors to review the hostages' conditions.

Ballon said that one of the men being held is in poor health, having had triple bypass surgery a year ago. "Our main concern is to get our people released, especially this person who has a serious heart condition," said Ballon.

Peru often ranks as the world's fifth-largest gold producer. (Reporting by Dana Ford and Maria Luisa Palomino; Writing by Dana Ford; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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