MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru: Violence Targets Anti-Mining Activists

Published by MAC on 2009-12-14
Source: Upsidedown World, Reuters, Catapa (2009-12-07)

On Wednesday 2nd of December a new violent confrontation between local residents and police occurred in the town of Cajas Canchaque, district of Carmen de la Frontera, in the province of Huancabamba, northern Peru. During the confrontation two residents died by police fire: Cástulo Correa Huayama, 39 years old, and Vicente Romero Ramírez, 52 years old.

This tragic events raised more fears of militarization at the Rio Blanco copper-molybdenum project: by creating the public perception of a rural population that is "unmanageable" and "violent", the state will be able to "justify the militarization of this area" an observer suggested.

See previous post here: Will Peru mine attack lead to a "final solution" for indicted Rio Blanco project? - http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9615

Peru: Violence Targets Anti-Mining Activists

Written by Jennifer Moore, Upsidedown World

7 December 2009

Local leaders call for dialogue and a full investigation after two campesinos were killed by police in north-western Peru last week.

On Wednesday afternoon, Vicente Robledo Ramírez, aged 55 and father of eight children, and Castulo Correa Huayama, aged 36 and father of six, were shot dead in a confrontation with national police. Another six campesinos were wounded and two detained. The police report that they also sustained several wounded, but further details have not been released.

Over the weekend, a reported 2,000 campesinos turned out to mourn the death of the men in the remote rural province of Huancabamba where campesinos have been opposing a Chinese and UK owned mine for the last six years. The Rio Blanco project is principally owned by the Chinese Zijin Consortium together with the UK's Monterrico Metals.

Juan Amancio Romero, son of Vicente, asked authorities "to investigate what took place and to respect the decisions of the people who don't want the mine to continue in the area, nor a NGO [believed to be closely linked to the company] or police."

The Front for the Sustainable Development of the Northern Border of Peru (FDSFNP by its initials in Spanish) also called for further investigation and reiterated "its will to dialogue" with the government.

The incident brings the death toll in the area to seven. On Nov. 1, two security guards and the mine site manager were killed in an armed attack by unidentified perpetrators at the Rio Blanco mining camp, now the subject of reserved investigations involving national police. Also, in 2004 and 2005, two campesinos were killed as result of repression against protests.

According to the People's Ombudsman (Defensoria del Pueblo), police report that the deaths last week took place after they detained a man in the area of the community of Cajas-Canchaque. The regional police chief Walter Rivera said that the detention was part of investigations into the November attack on the mine camp and that those implicated in this prior incident had been refusing to cooperate. President Servando Aponte of the campesino community challenged the police version saying that officers acted "arrogantly" and that when they entered the home of Lorenzo Rojas to detain him that his neighbours came out in his defence because there was no official warrant for his detention.

For the last six years, the Rio Blanco project, a proposed open-pit copper and molybdenum mine, has generated opposition from campesino communities on whose land it would be located given potential impacts on water supplies and agricultural activities taking place within the watershed. As a result, the company has never obtained the two-thirds approval from local assemblies that it is required to have by law in order to operate in the area. On Sept. 16, 2007, three rural districts in Huancabamba and Ayabaca participated a popular referendum and reaffirmed their opposition to the mine in which a majority voted against any mining activity in the area.

Earlier attempts at dialogue broke down because of government refusal to discuss the results of the 2007 referendum. Since then, around 300 local leaders have faced legal processes believed to be a means of political persecution for their role in the referendum. Most recently, tensions have risen following the Nov. 1 attack on the mining camp for which it is believed that those opposed to the mine are being principally targeted as part of investigations by national police.

A Single Hypothesis

Javier Jahncke of the Ecumenical Foundation for Development and Peace (Fedepaz), whose organization is part of a national network that promotes the sustainable use of natural resources and the rights of rural and indigenous communities, says they have concluded that police are leading investigations into the November incident "with a single hypothesis in which they assume that the campesinos were the authors of the crime."

The day following the attack the FDSFNP, a coalition of local community leaders opposed to the mine, expressed its condolences for the deaths and urged that thorough investigations take place. According to the Peru Support Group, the UK company Monterrico Metals was also "quick to distance itself from any accusations blaming local community groups for this latest violence and indeed thanked local communities for the help they showed the mine camp's employees who escaped the attack."

However, Jahncke is concerned that police have set aside other possible explanations for the attack to focus on the possible involvement of the mine's opponents. He suggests other theories, such that Rio Blanco's workers might have been killed as part of an attempted robbery or that there was a dispute among workers that led to reprisals, are being ignored. He notes that they have not been privy to evidence being considered as part of investigations since they have been reserved by police.

A congresswoman from the northwestern department of Piura has also received testimonies that police have detained and tortured people in local communities as part of efforts to gain confessions concerning the attack.

Jahncke further questions the timing of the recent violence given that a judge in the English High Court has only recently upheld an injunction to freeze the assets of Monterrico Metals saying that 29 men and women from Piura have a "good arguable case" against the company for allegations of abuses which took place at the Rio Blanco mine site in 2005.

"This lawsuit has seriously affected the image of the company Monterrico Metals," says Jahncke, "and by extension, Zijin." This raises questions in his mind about the recent violence and how it is being dealt with "because of who is being affected by this situation, and if it isn't the same campesinos that have been resorting to international channels to be able to be heard since such a process has not begun in their own country."

Fears of Militarization

As a result, Jahncke sees last week's violence as part of a "clear effort at any cost" to make way for the mine. He fears that by creating the public perception of a rural population that is "unmanageable" and "violent" that the state will be able to "justify the militarization of this area."

Only days after the November attack on the mining camp, Peruvian Prime Minister Velásquez Quesquén indicated that the government was evaluating the possibility of installing a military base in the area. The General Manager Jian Wu of the principal stakeholder in the Rio Blanco project, the Chinese Zijin Consortium, was present at the meeting.

However, says Jahncke, "These conflicts cannot be resolved with the military protecting the company operations. This will just put more fuel on the fire and generate more conflict... For this to go ahead would be the worst thing possible."

Overall, he is concerned that the government continues to favour the company's presence "over the property rights of the communities."

He concludes, "Until this situation is seen as the rights of some being preferred over the rights of others, in a situation that is not legal, and in which rights have been violated for a long time, the problem will not be solved and you will see decisions that will collide with community rights and the conflict will continue to grow, which is what we least want and what hopefully the state least wants to see happen as well."


MINING CONFLICT IN PERÚ LEAVES TWO DEAD

www.catapa.be

4 December, 2009

On Wednesday 2nd of December in the afternoon, a new violent confrontation between local residents and police occurred in the town of Cajas Canchaque, district of Carmen de la Frontera, in the province of Huancabamba (Piura, Northern Peru).

During the confrontation two residents died by police fire: Cástulo Correa Huayama, 39 years old, and Vicente Romero Ramírez, 52 years old. More than 17 hours after their death the corpses have not yet been removed. Further, another six residents were wounded, one of them an 18 year old adolescent with shotwounds to the head, as was reported by Radio 'Coordinación Nacional'.

The circumstances of the tragedy are still unclear. According to the National Police, police officials who were trying to detain persons supposedly involved in the attack on the "Henry´s Hill" mining camp of mining company Río Blanco of November 1st, were ambushed and fired in self defence.

The organization OCMAL (Observatory of Mining Conflicts in Latin America) claims that the conflict started when local residents demanded workers of the NGO "Integrando" to leave, when they were working on the road that leads to Sapalache. "Integrando" informed the National Police force, who immediately sent a contingent of police agents to the town. The NGO is supposedly linked to the mining company Río Blanco (formerly known as Majaz) and thought to be responsible for earlier confrontations between residents of Segunda y Cajas.

It must be emphasized that this is not the first time residents of Huancabamba enter in conflict with the police due to the presence of mining company Rio Blanco in the region.

CONTEXT: some facts

The presence of the mining company Rio Blanco Copper has been contested ever since its arrival in 2002. During two peaceful marches in April 2004 and July 2005 two local leaders died. Recently, in October 2009, as a consequence of the torture of 28 farmers at the mining site during the second march, the funds of the company were frozen. In November 2009, another three persons died during an attack at the mining site, the investigation is still ongoing.

It must be emphasized that during a popular referendum the 17 of September 2007, 94.8% of the inhabitants of the districts of Pacaipampa, Ayavaca, Carmen de la Frontera declared itself to be against the mining company. Some of the most important reasons for refusing the company are its (il)legality, the violation of human rights, and the socio-environmental risks.


Violence erupts again over Chinese mine in Peru

Terry Wade and Teresa Cespedes, Reuters

3 December 2009

LIMA - Two people were killed and eight were injured in a shootout on Wednesday as Peruvian police tried to arrest a suspect for attacking a mining project owned by Chinese company Zijin, police said on Thursday.

Authorities said they arrested two suspects for the assault in November that killed three workers at the Rio Blanco copper development, but were fired upon as they tried to arrest a third suspect.

Zijin's $1.4 billion Rio Blanco project has locked local communities and companies in a bitter environmental dispute marred by violence.

It has also put pressure on President Alan Garcia, whose approval rating is just 26 percent, to find a balance between luring foreign investment to oil and mining projects and protecting the environment. "We were trying to arrest those responsible for what happened in November ... and we were attacked by bullets and rocks while trying to catch one suspect. We responded in legitimate defense," General Walter Rivera told Reuters.

Rivera, who said police and civilians were among the wounded, said the suspect escaped during the shootout.

David Velazco, a lawyer for the victims, said police used excessive force. He said police were serving warrants for eight suspects in the November attack, but there were no warrants out for the arrest of the two peasants killed on Wednesday.

"The peasants didn't shoot anybody. They don't have arms, only arrows or maybe some rocks," he said.

The company declined comment.

The government of Peru, a leading global minerals exporter, said it would investigate and that violence must stop. "We won't permit chaos. We'll use all the tools the Constitution gives us to guarantee security and (prevent) attacks on public and private property," said Prime Minister Javier Velasquez.

History of Violence

The Rio Blanco development, 500 miles north of Lima, Peru's capital, is run by Monterrico Metals of Britain, which was bought by Zijin in 2007.

In 2005, one protester was killed and two dozen were beaten when townspeople mobilized against the mine, which they said would cause pollution and hurt water supplies.

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

Last month, 15 to 20 gunmen invaded the mining camp and set it ablaze.

Politicians have called it revenge for the 2005 clash or the work of drug traffickers. Rivera said he has yet to assign a motive for the attack, even though suspects were identified.

Garcia's administration often tries to hurt the credibility of environmental groups by taking them to court or calling them terrorists. Human rights groups say he tries to play on the fears of Peruvians who remember the leftist insurgencies of the 1980s and 1990s.

An independent arm of the government that tracks social conflicts recently said that communities nationwide have organized to block 103 new mines or oil wells.

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.

Despite frequent conflicts over natural resources, Chinese miners Chinalco and Minmetals have also been investing in Peru.

Together, Chinese companies hungry for resources have pledged to invest at least $6 billion Peru's mining sector. Zijin's mine, which would churn out some 200,000 tons of copper concentrate a year, was supposed to open in 2011 but has faced repeated delays.

(Reporting by Terry Wade and Teresa Cespedes; editing by Jim Marshall)

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