Peru: new repression at Conga mine site

Leaders of the peasant protest encampment at the planned Conga mine project in Cajamarca, Peru, report a new attack by the National Police detachment assigned to protect the site. Protest leader Marco Arana said that as a procession of protesters marched to the threatened Laguna Cocodrilo on March 18, police agents and security personnel of the Yanacocha mining company closely followed it, taunting the marchers with insults and provoking a fracas. Police reportedly used tear-gas and fired shotguns, and detained several protesters. Protest leaders issued an appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for action in the case. (La Republica, March 19; CNDH, March 18)

Last month, local campesino leaders, including the mayors of El Alumbre and Llaucán villages, issued a statement asserting that Yanacocha's blasting and land-moving activities at the Conga site were damaging nearby lagunas, or alpine lakes. Yanacocha is currently building an access road to Laguna Perol, a lake on the site that the company hopes to turn into a mine pit. (Caballero Verde, Feb. 27; Servindi, Feb. 11)

The new attack comes three days after a clash in the nearby town of Bambamarca. Police said a group of some 40 men armed with rocks and sticks attacked municipal buildings, smashing windows. A police agent was reportedly shot in the head and gravely injured when National Police moved in to break up the mob. Reports were unclear on whether the gunfire came from the rioters or if the agent was hit by fire from his fellow officers. The local National Police commissariat said the rioters were likely anti-mine protesters, but didn't say what this conjecture was based on. Four men were reported detained. (Panorama Cajamarquino, March 18; RPP, March 15)