A day of pitched street-fighting on March 14 left three dead, some 35 wounded and 60 detained in Puerto Maldonado, capital of Peru’s lowland Madre de Dios region, as small-scale independent gold miners continued their paro (civil strike) to oppose the government’s announced crackdown on their activities. Thousands of miners blocked the city’s streets, and attempted to seize the airport and the newly built Continental Bridge over the Rio Madre de Dios. Protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at helmented National Police troops in full military gear, who responded with tear gas and live rifle fire.
A local journalist who has reported on the ecological impacts of illegal mining in the region, Manuel Calloquispe, told Lima’s daily La República that he was attacked and beaten in his home by protesters.
The Native Federation of the Rio Madre de Dios (FENAMAD) said that one of those killed by police gunfire was an indigenous man from the Amarakaeri reserve in the rainforest outside the city. FENAMAD, while acknowledging that ecological impacts of the mining need to be addressed, joined the paro to demand a just solution to the problem.
On March 15, the Madre de Dios Mining Federation (FEDEMIN) announced that the paro would be suspended in response to an invitation from the national government for miner’s leaders to travel to Lima to meet with cabinet ministers to establish a dialogue. However, simultaneously Defense Minister Alberto Otárola said that 1,000 soldiers would be mobilized to Madre de Dios to back up the National Police in restoring order to the region. (La Republica, Peru21, FENAMAD, March 15)
The strike was also suspended in neighboring Puno region, where clashes with police at roadblocks left two wounded and six detained. Miners continue to block roads in Apurímac, with hundreds maintaining barricades on the Abancay-Lima highway. Miners also continue to block the road to Otuzco, a city in the northern coastal region of La Libertad. (La Republica, March 15)
See our last posts on mineral struggles in Peru.
Peru to “formalize” independent miners
In a bid to quell militant protests, Peru’s Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal announced the creation of a special fund to “formalize” small-scale artisenal miners in Madre de Dios region, and provide them with a development plan and non-polluting technology. The program is to be phased in over the next year. (RPP, March 16)
Peru: miners block Pan-American Highway
Madre de Dios independent miners, in talks with the Council of Ministers, demanded that the decrees outlawing their activities be suspended at least while the talks are in progress. (RPP, March 19) Meanwhile, protesting miners in Ancash region blocked the Pan-American Highway for nearly the entire day of March 19, hurling rocks at National Police troops who tried to clear the road with tear-gas. (RPP, March 20)
Amid all the controversy over the informal miners, the Lima daily La Republica identifies four companies that purchase gold from the Madre de Dios miners: Oro Fino, Metal Perú, Los Poderosos and Mega La Red. No legal action seems to have been taken against them. (La Republica, March 18)