Devastating floods expose Peru's climate crisis

Some 70,000 are displaced and at least 70 dead as Peru's heaviest rains in two decades have unleashed flash-floods and landslides across the country. The National Civil Defense Institute (INDECI) is stretched to limit, with several communities left isolated by washed-out roads and bridges. The north coast has been hit the hardest, with the worst impacts in Lambayeque region, where some 40,000 are displaced. But the situation is grim both up and down the coast from there. INDECI is coordinating with the Defense Ministry to establish an "air bridge," bringing aid by helicopter to the stricken coastal cities of Ácash region. At least 15 pueblos outside Chimbote are cut off after the bridge over the Río Lacramarca was wiped out by a huayco (mudslide). Residents are also trapped in Huarmey district, and the town's hospital was destroyed. In all, 20 of Peru's 25 administrative regions are impacted.

Peru: new confrontation at Conga mine site

National Police fired on protesters occupying the site of the Conga gold mining project in Peru's Cajamarca region on May 28, leaving one wounded in the leg and abdomen. Police, including elite troops from the Special Operations Divsion (DINOES), opened fire as some 1,500 campesinos were marching on El Perol laguna, to establish an encampement there. The Yanacocha mining company recently announced that it will begin pumping El Perol to divert the water into a reservoir and permit mining on the site—despite the fact that the project is officially suspended. A nearby reservoir dubbed Chaillhuagón has already been built, the company announced; the original laguna of that name is slated to become a pit-mine if the project moves ahead. The company says the new reservoirs will be made available for use by local residents, but Cajamarca's Unitary Struggle Command (CUL), which is coordinating the protests, pledges to resist any damage to the lagunas. (La Republica, Servindi, Servindi, CAOI, May 28; La Republica, May 23)

Peru: mining company rejects Conga referendum

In a Feb. 13 press conference in Peru's northern city of Cajamarca, leaders of the regional Unitary Struggle Command, joined by congressional deputy Jorge Rimarachín, announced a new cross-country march on the alpine lagunas threatened by the Conga gold-mining project. Leaders said the march, to begin at month's end from local campesino communities, would culminate a few days later in an occupation of area around the lakes to secure them against any move by the Yanacocha mining company. (Celendin Libre, Feb. 23) That same day, Yanacocha issued a statement rejecting plans by impacted communities to hold a consulta or referendum on the project. Yanacocha spokesman Javier Velarde said: "If we are going to accept conultas every time there is a project that wants to be developed, and if the consultas are on the margin of the law, without the participation of the authorities, we will be placing in danger all the mineral industry at the national level." (Celendin Libre, Feb. 23)

Peru: water authority rejects mine expansion

Peru's Yanacocha mining company—that seeking to develop the controversial Conga project in Cajamarca region—is appealing a ruling of  the National Water Authority (ANA) barring expansion of its existing mine into new lands within its concession area. The lands, at a place called La Quinua Sur, lie within the headwaters of the Río Grande, which supplies water to the city of Cajamarca. Technically, the expansion, dubbed Yanacocha Oeste, was approved late last year by the Ministry of Energy and Mining (MINEM), but ANA denied approval to discharge effluent into local waterways that drain into the river. This effectively bars plans to develop a new open-pit mine at Quinua Sur. 

Peru: villages to hold referendum on Conga project

Villages in the area to be impacted by the controversial Conga gold mine in Peru's Cajamarca region announced last week that they will hold a referendum on the project—with the support of the regional government but not Lima. The vote will be held in Celendin and Bambamarca provinces in July, said a statement from the Cajamarca Unitary Struggle Command (CUL). "A consultation will be held on the Minas Conga project in order to see what the population thinks," said the CUL's Marco Arana. The consultation is being organized by traditional village authorities, and seems not to have been endorsed by the provincial governments. The mayor of Huasmin district in Celendín, José Eriberto Marín Agusti, is backing the referendum.

Peru: new mobilization against Conga project

Jan. 12 saw a new mobilization in the northern Peruvian city of Cajamarca against the pending Conga mining project, with some 1,000 local campesinos and their supporters filling the Plaza de Armas with music, banners and slogans. Participants accused the Yanacocha mining company of "intending to privatize" the region's water resources, and of being complicit in the "criminalization of protest." Residents of the community of Baños del Inca proclaimed their readiness to occupy La Shacsa, a nearby mountain within Yanacocha's active concession area, if the Conga project moves ahead. The march was convened by Wilfredo Saavedra, leader of the Cajamarca Environmental Defense Front. (Servindi, Jan. 15)

Peru: protest over mine's water diversion

On Dec. 19, some 6,000 campesinos and their supporters filled the streets of Chiclayo, capital of Peru's northern Lambayeque region, demanding the repeal of the National Water Authority's resolutions  089-2012 and 090-2012, which authoritize La Zanja mining company to begin dumping waste water in the canyons of La Pampa and El Cedro, inland across the border in Cajamarca region. These canyons empty into the Río Chancay, which flows back into Lambayeque (where it joins with the Río Reque to meet the sea near Chiclayo). The rally concluded at the Lambayeque regional government headquaters, where representatives of different organizations making up the Lambayeque Unitary Struggle Command (CULL) delivered a message to regional president Humberto Acuña Peralta, demanding that he take immediate action to protect the waters of the Río Chancay.

Peru: indigenous consulta rejects mineral project

On Oct. 1, the indigenous village of San Juan Bautista de Cañaris in Peru's northern region of Lambayeque announced the results of a consulta, or community consultation, on the proposed Cañariaco Norte open-pit copper mine, saying 1,896 members of the pueblo of some 4,000 voted by 95% to reject it. The results were immediately forwarded to the Energy and Mines Ministry (MINEM). Vancouver-based Candente Copper, which hopes to develop the project, issued a statement rejecting the consulta, saying the community had already approved the project in a "general assembly" held on July 8. The statement noted that the "general assembly" has been called for judicial authorities after Cristobal Barrios, the president of the Cañaris Campesino Community, had refused to convene it. The statement said the "general assembly" had been confirmed as "legally binding" by MINEM, and charged that Barrios had called the consulta "unilaterally" in violation of Peru's General Law of Campesino Communities (PDF). Cañaris community representatives, in turn, noted that more residents participated in the consulta than in the "general assembly," and insisted that the new vote represents the will of the community. (Marketwire Canada, Bloomberg, Oct. 2; El Comercio via Gato EncerradoDiario Correo, Oct. 1)

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