informal mining

Peru: two dead in miners' protest

In the early hours of March 15, a clash broke out as troops from the elite Special Operations Directorate (DINOES) of Peru's National Police force evicted a group of informal miners from their encampment at La Bonita, in northern La Libertad region, leaving two miners dead. As the encampmen of some 500, in Retamas district, Pataz province, was set upon by a force of some 200 police agents, hundreds of other miners from the area converged on the scene to defend their comrades. In addition to the two dead, several were hurt on both sides, and two miners detained. The eviction of the camp had apparently been ordered by a local judge.

Brazil: Amazon peoples declare against hydro

Some 500 members of the Munduruku indingenous group held a grand assembly Jan. 29 to Feb. 1 at the villahe of Jacareacanga, Pará state, in the Brazilian Amazon, where they denounced the Bacia Tapajós development project slated for their territory. The scheme calls for a complex of five hydroelectric dams on the Rio Tapajós, with the first slated for Teles Pires. Read the statement from the meeting: "We are not against the development of the country, but we will not accept having our lives destroyed in the name of a type of progress that will only benefit the great entrepreneurs who will be increasingly rich."

Guyana: miners win ruling over indigenous groups

A judge in Guyana's high court ruled Jan. 17 that indigenous groups do not have the right to expel "legal" miners from their lands. The judge, Diana Insanally, found that if the miners in question held a government-approved license then the local community had no right to dispute the operations. The ruling has sparked protests by indigenous groups and is expected to be appealed. "We are deeply disappointed and worried with this ruling and what it means to our village and to Amerindian communities in general," read a press release from the indigenous community Isseneru. "[I]t has serious environmental and social impacts for us. The miners have, for example, brought with them problems related to drugs and prostitution."

Peru: miners block Pan-American Highway

Informal miners in Peru's southern Arequipa region declared an open-ended paro (civil strike) Feb. 6, briefly blocking the Pan-American Highway at various points before being cleared by the National Police. Hundreds of miners armed with sticks gathered at several villages along the highway, erecting barricades to press thier demands for "formalization" of their mineral claims and a system of social security including a pension plan. The largest protest was in Ocoña, Camaná province, where some 2,000 marched. The srtike is being coordinated by the National Confederation of Artisenal Miners of Peru (CONAMI). (Sin Patrones, Feb. 6)

Brazil: Amazon native killed by federal police

A Munduruku indigenous man was killed in a gunfight with Brazilian federal police at the remote Amazonian settlement of Teles Pires, straddling the border of Mato Grosso and Pará states, authorities said Nov. 9. Six other Mundurukus and three officers were wounded, the federal police said. The police were part of a multi-state operation targeting illegal gold mining. Police said a group of Munduruku men armed with shotguns and bows and arrows attacked the officers as they were destroying mining equipment. Authorities charge Munduruku leaders were receiving monthly payoffs from illegal miners. (Otramérica, Nov. 25; Agência Estado, Nov. 21; EFE, Nov. 9)

Peru: campesino alliance with 'illegal' miners

On Nov. 11, the Second National Congress of Artisanal Miners was held at Juliaca, in Peru's southern region of Puno, presided over by Hernán de la Cruz Enciso, AKA Tankar Rau Rau Amaru, outspoken president of the National Confederation of Artisanal Miners and Small Producers (CONAMI), pledging to launch new road occupations if the government does not rescind decrees mandating the "legalization" of informal mining operations. A surprise guest was Walter Aduviri, leader of the Aymara campesino struggle in Puno, who has led strikes and protests against mining projects. De la Cruz and Aduviri shared a public abrazo (embrace) and hailed the meeting as "a step towards the consolidation of objectives" of their respective movements. De la Cruz said Aduviri "is against big mining and supports small mining." Peru's pro-business website eeé (for Economy & Energy with Ethics [sic]) on reporting the meeting, added: "Peruvians are now notified of this new alliance of terror and violence, between Tankar Rau Rau Amaru (Hernán de la Cruz) and Walter Aduviri."

Peru: narco-mineral integration

On Oct. 10, the US Justice Department announced the seizure of more than $31 million in funds allegedly "connected to an international money laundering scheme run by a drug trafficking organization operated by members of the Sánchez-Paredes family," a Peruvian clan deemed by US law enforcement to be a drug trafficking organization (DTO). The funds were held in nine US banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase, none of which have been charged with any wrongdoing. Additional moneys in three Peruvian bank accounts have also been frozen. The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York found that the family was using its gold mining interests as a front for cocaine trafficking:

Peru: court rules for indigenous sovereignty

Peru's Supreme Court on Sept. 26 ruled in favor of the Shipibo and Ese'Eja indigenous community of Tres Islas in the southern Amazon basin region of Madre de Dios, finding that the rainforest dwellers have the right to block a road that illegal miners and timber cutters use to enter their territory. Indigenous organizations hailed the ruling as an important precedent for peoples trying to halt mining, logging or oil drilling on their lands. "We think this will serve as an example for other indigenous groups to take their cases to the top court," said Jaime Tapullima Pashanase, president of the Ethnic Council of Kechwa Peoples of the Amazon (CEPKA). Added Julio Ibañez Moreno, a lawyer for Peru's trans-Amazonian alliance AIDESEP: "I consider this ruling very important for indigenous communities. This is an advance in terms of the rights they have been demanding."

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