Peru: indigenous community takes mineral company workers hostage

Four employees of Minera Afrodita and two people who were traveling with them in the Peruvian Amazon were held hostage for a sixth day on Jan. 20, by protesters angry over mining development. The group, which includes two administrative workers, two security guards, their boat captain and his helper, was seized last week in the remote community of Huampami, Cenepa district, Condorcanqui/Bagua province, Amazonas department. The company said its workers were there to invite local leaders to a meeting to talk about mining projects.

Afrodita has gold mining concessions near Peru’s northern border, where it is looking for gold. A small Canadian miner, Dorato Resources, has the rights to buy up to 100% of the company’s shares.

Peru’s mining and energy ministry said it would send a commission to the area to discuss the community’s demands, but only after the hostages are released. Local leaders say the hostages will be released when a government group arrives to access environmental damage caused by the company’s operations. Authorities have expressed grave concerns about the health of one of the hostages, who is 71 years old.

Indigenous groups accuse the company of engaging in exploration activity, which would require community consent. The company says it is not exploring, just prospecting. “This company has initiated operations in our land only with the approval of the Peruvian government, which has never requested our opinion,” Huampami leaders wrote in a letter to native communities in Canada, asking for their support. (Reuters, Diario Correo, Peru, El Comercio, Lima, Jan. 20)

See our last posts on Peru and the mineral cartel in Latin America.

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