MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru: Protesters block Yanacocha, as small miners stage national protest

Published by MAC on 2009-05-18
Source: PlanetArk, EFE

More than 3,000 Peruvian protesters may force the biggest gold mine in Latin America to halt production, as they demand compensation because of a toxic mercury spill that occurred in 2000 in the town of Choropampa.

Last week, too, thousands of independent miners blocked several stretches of highway in southern Peru at the start of a 72-hour national protest to pressure the government to grant them formal recognition.


Protesters Block Road To Peru Yanacocha Gold Mine
14th May 2009

LIMA - Protesters in Peru, angry over the handling of a mercury spill, have blocked the road to one of Latin America's largest gold mines, Yanacocha, which is running low on crucial supplies, sector sources said on Wednesday.

Residents near the mine, run by US-based Newmont Mining Corp and Peruvian precious metals miner Buenaventura, are asking for greater compensation related to a toxic spill that occurred in 2000.

They have blocked access for about a week.

"As of yesterday, 80 of Yanacocha's large trailers were not able to move -- 35 could not come down and 45 could not go up (to the mine)," said Fernando Rospigliosi, a conflict expert and former Peruvian interior minister. "The company can withstand (the blockade) for up to two weeks, after which it may have to halt (production)," he said.

Officials at Yanacocha were not immediately available for comment, but a person familiar with company operations said the protests are having an impact.

"Vehicles are not being allowed access. There is almost no fuel and supplies are not coming in," the source said. The mine, which is located some 375 miles (604 km) north of Lima, posted gold sales of 1.8 billion ounces last year.

Peru is the world's sixth-largest gold producer.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Dana Ford; Editing by Christian Wiessner)


Miners Block Highway in Southern Peru
EFE,13th May 2009

LIMA - Thousands of independent miners on Tuesday blocked several stretches of highway in southern Peru at the start of a 72-hour national protest to pressure the government to grant them formal recognition.

The miners, some of them carrying signs and sticks, gathered rocks at several points along the main highway connecting Lima with the southern part of the country, a move that caused unease among thousands of passengers on board buses that had been stranded along with trucks and private automobiles since before dawn.

In Lima, hundreds of members of the Fenamarpe miners association, which says that some 300,000 Peruvian families subsist from small-scale mining, marched through the streets to demand better treatment by the government as well as the nullification of legislation they consider harmful to their rights and interests.

The general director of mining at the Energy and Mines Ministry, Victor Vargas, told RPP radio that if the workers continue with their current mining practices they will wind up polluting the environment. He added that the new legal rules aimed at fostering small-scale mining are oriented toward allowing the official recognition as a group of a large number of independent miners, as well as establishing environmental standards.

Also on Tuesday, Peru's environment minister said the independent miners who produce 16 tons of gold annually dump twice that amount of poisonous mercury into the rivers and soil of the southeastern jungle region of Madre de Dios. "The pollution has already reached Porto Alegre, capital of (the state of) Rondonia in Brazil," Antonio Brack told reporters in Lima.

Madre de Dios receives 60,000 foreign tourists each year for ecotourism in its national parks and protected areas. In that region, 150,000 hectares (375,000 acres) of forest have been destroyed by open-pit strip miners prospecting for gold.

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