A trial opened in Peru's Cajamarca region March 6 against 16 community leaders facing charges for their participation in a 2012 protest against the Conga mining project. According an indictment filed by the 2nd Provincial Criminal Prosecutor's Office of Celendín, the defendants—all local social leaders, including five women—may face up to 36 years in prison if convicted. The case stems from the July 2012 violence in the provinces of Celendín and Bambamarca, in which five protesters were killed by National Police troops. Among the accused is Milton Sánchez Cubas, secretary-general of the Inter-Institutional Platform of Celendín, for whom the Inter-American Court on Human Rights had recently issued "precuationary measures" due to threats on his life.
For more than 20 years, operations at Yanacocha—the largest open-pit gold mine in South America—have wreaked environmental devastation and social conflicts in the region. With the planned Conga project, Minera Yanacocha is expected to dump 96,000 tons of toxic mining wastewater per day into headwaters of the river basin that serves as the region's main water source. (Earth Rights International, March 6)