MAC: Mines and Communities

Will Peru mine attack lead to a "final solution" for indicted Rio Blanco project?

Published by MAC on 2009-11-09
Source: Reuters, Bloomberg

Three workers died and several disappeared during an attack on Zijin's Rio Blanco

Under unclear circumstances, security guards, Luis Gómez Vílchez, José Severino Zapata and engineer Eduardo Ramírez Montero, last week lost their lives at the Rio Blanco mining camp in Piura, northern Peru.

In a public statement, the Frente por el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Frontera Norte del Perú (FDSFNP) condemned the killings and demanded an in-depth investigation, as well as expressing solidarity with families of the victims. The FDSFNP also rejected any possible militarization of the area.

While the details of these attacks are unknown, they occured shortly after the mine's operating company, Monterrico Metals, was indicted in London for complicity in torture of Peruvian citizens back in 2005. See:

The killings may open the way to an imposed "final solution", suggested by Peru's Prime Minister: the placement of a military base near the mining project.


Two die in attack on Peru copper project of Zijin


2 November 2009

LIMA - Two workers died and several disappeared during an attack on Chinese miner Zijin's highly controversial Rio Blanco copper project in northern Peru, the company's local director, Jian Wu, said on Monday.

About 15 to 20 armed people invaded the mining camp on Sunday and fired at its security guards, Wu said. Peru's interior minister said several people were missing and that one was killed.

The attack may have been an act of revenge. In 2005, one protester was killed and two dozen others were tortured when townspeople mobilized to stop construction of the mine, which they said would cause pollution and hurt water supplies.

The mining development is run by Monterrico Metals of Britain, which was bought by Zijin Mining Group  in 2007. Other Chinese miners have been investing in Peru, despite periodic conflicts over who controls natural resources.

In Britain, rights groups have filed a lawsuit against Monterrico over the 2005 clash.

Foreign companies and residents in poor towns often argue about mining and oil projects in Peru, one of the world's largest metals exporters. The case of Rio Blanco has been especially bitter and rights groups say President Alan Garcia has often ignored environmental concerns in his push to lure foreign investment.

Elsewhere in Peru, tensions continue to simmer. This month, tribes in Peru's southern Amazon threatened to forcibly remove employees of U.S. energy firm Hunt Oil's petroleum exploration project in the Madre de Dios region.

In June, three dozen people died near the town of Bagua, in Peru's northern jungle, as police broke up roadblocks set by indigenous groups opposed to oil exploration on their ancestral lands.

It was the worst unrest of Garcia's term and forced him to ask Congress to repeal two laws designed to attract billions in investment to the Amazon. (Reporting by Marco Aquino and Patricia Velez; Writing by Terry Wade; Editing by Dana Ford and Lisa Shumaker)

Monterrico Metals Peru Mine Attack Leaves Two Dead

By Alex Emery, Bloomberg

2 November 2009

Monterrico Metals Plc, a U.K. mining company operating in Peru, said unidentified gunmen attacked its copper project in the nation, killing at least two workers.

About 20 men armed with rifles and revolvers burned the workers camp at the Rio Blanco deposit in the northern Andes yesterday and shot dead two of the guards, the mine’s manager Wu Jian told Lima-based Radioprogramas today. Seven additional workers are missing, he said.

"No one knows exactly what happened, but the camp has been completely destroyed," Wu said. "We only know that two of our workers are dead."

Protesters opposing pollution attacked the mine at least three times since 2005. The $1.5 billion Rio Blanco project, with 1.26 billion tons of copper resources, could produce 220,000 tons of copper a year, a company study has said. The company intended to start production at the site in 2011.

A police helicopter is traveling to the site, 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of Lima, Interior Minister Octavio Salazar told reporters today in the Peruvian capital.

Wu and spokesman Andrew Bristow weren’t immediately available for comment today when contacted by Bloomberg News.

China’s Zijin Mining Group Co. holds a 79.9 percent stake in the deposit and LS-Nikko Copper Inc. has 10 percent.

Peru is the world’s third-largest copper producer.

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