Peru: anti-mining protesters occupy Cajamarca

Residents in Cajamarca, Peru, held a 24-hour general strike Nov. 11, with protestors erecting roadblocks to halt traffic on the Cajamarca-Bambamarca highway. Students from the National University of Cajamarca took over the campus, and almost all urban transport unions, teachers and shops joined the strike. The action was called to demand that the Yanacocha Mining Corp. abandon its development of a giant gold mine at the community of Conga, which residents say will threaten vital water sources. The mine project will destroy four mountain lakes. The company has pledged to replace them with reservoirs—an offer rejected by local residents and municipal governments.

The Yanacocha company runs several other mines in the Cajamarca region, the flagship mine at at Yanacocha community being Latin America’s largest. The company is 51.4% owned by US-based Newmont Mining Corp., while Compania de Minas Buenaventura has a 43.7% stake and the International Finance Corp. owns the remainder. President Ollanta Humala called for a peaceful resolution to the dispute, and pledged to review the Conga mine’s environmental impact study which was approved last year. Gregorio Santos, the leftist regional president of Cajamarca, supported the strike, which was called by the Cajamarca Environmental Defense Front. Residents of the communities to be directly affected by the mine—Piedra Redonda-El Ámaro, El Tambo, HuasmĂ­n and Sorochuco—said they would begin an open-ended civil strike on Nov 24 if development is not halted by then. Campesinos from these communities rallied in Cajamarca’s central plaza with a banner reading, “YANACOCHA, LISTEN: RETURN OUR WATERS OR WE WILL STRUGGLE UNTIL DEATH.” (La Republica, Nov. 11; Peru This Week, Reuters, Nov. 9; Dow Jones, Nov. 8; Earth Blog, Nov. 7)

Mining protests have also erupted for the first time since Humala took office earlier this year in the regions of Áncash and Apurímac. In the Áncash municipalities of Huari and Recuay, an open-ended strike was launched Nov. 11 to protest the activities of the mining companies Antamina (owned by a consortium including BHP Billiton of Australia and Mitsubishi) and Huallanca (Peruvian owned). At Andahuaylas, Apurímac, angry protests continue by local campesinos demanding a ban on mining in the region, despite a pact the regional government signed with the Andahuaylas Irrigation District Users Board (JUDRA), pledging a dialogue. On Nov. 11, some 40 were wounded when thousands of protesters attempted to seize government offices in Andahuaylas, and set fire to one public building. (AP, Nov. 12; DPA, Nov. 11)

See our last posts on Peru, the global mineral cartel, and regional struggles for control of water.

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