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’s attorney general, José Peláez Bardales, also weighed in against the consulta. “There could be commission of criminal acts” if the consulta goes ahead, he warned. “Is not up to the regional government to carry out any plebiscite or referendum, since that is the faculty of Executive Power and the National Election Tribunal.” While the consulta is the initiative of local campesino communities, it has the support of Cajamarca’s regional president, Gregorio Santos. (Celendin Libre, Feb. 22)

In La Libertad region, bordering Cajamarca on the west, the comuneros (communal peasants) of Quiruvilca municipality are opposing Toronto-based Barrick Gold’s plans to mine on alpine lakes at a place called Lagunas Sur. On Feb. 18, the leader of the rondas campesinas (peasant self-defense patrols) in Quiruvilca, Vicente Burgos, announced that his followers are prepared to blockade the road to the regional capital Trujillo if the project is not dropped.

The mayor of the local province of Santiago de Chuco, Juan Gabriel Alipio, stopped short of demanding a halt to the project, but said the government must agree to a dialogue on protection of local water sources, warning of the potential for deadly violence as seen in Cajamarca last year. “The president, Ollanta Humala, has to place this grave problem on his agenda,” he said. (La Republica, Feb. 18 via Celendin Libre)

On Feb. 16, delegations of comuneros and ronderos from Cajamarca and Cañaris, a locale across the border in Lamayeque deparrtment also threatened by a mining project, appeared before Peru’s Congress in Lima to demand that the government cancel both projects. Cristobal Barrios, president of San Juan de Cañaris campesino community, called on the president to respect the community’s consulta of Sept. 30, 2012, in which the project was rejected. (Servindi, Feb. 16)

Two recent videos on anti-mining struggles in Peru’s north, A Tajo Abierto and Majaz, los Guardianes del Agua, are winning much interest in Peru’s social media.

  1. Peru: Quiruvilca protesters lift blockade
    Representatives of 22 campesino communities in Quiruvilca district, Santiago de Chuco province, La Libertad region, announced the end of their blockade of the entrance to Barrick Gold’s Lagunas Norte mining site after seven days. The decision was taken after Barrick agreed to hear their demands. These include restitution for degraded lands, restocking local waters with trout, and abandoning plans to extend operations to an adjacent site, Lagnas Sur. (El Comercio, Feb. 27)