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.
Peru's Yanacocha mining company, majority-owned by the world's number two gold producer, Newmont Mining of Colorado, on March 7 denied press reports that it is planning to leave the gold-rich northern region of Cajamarca no later than 2016. In a statement, Yanacocha CEO Javier Velarde said the company will continue to exploit its massive mine in Cajamarca at least through 2015, while evaluating new projects elsewhere in Peru. The Yanacocha mine's plans for expansion have been the focus of protest campaigns in Cajamarca for more than a year now. "We have openly acknowledged the challenges ahead, but we never said the company was leaving Cajamarca by 2016," said Velarde in the statement. (Mining.com, March 8; Gato Encerrado, March 7)
Indigenous peoples in Peru's Amazonas region have held demonstrations over the past weeks at the site of the June 2009 massacre at Curva del Diablo, in the municipality of Bagua. The action was called to protest that 54 indigenous leaders are now facing life terms if convicted in the Bagua violence, while only one member of the National Police is behind bars in the affair, with another two already released. On Feb. 26, when the road at "Devil's Curve" was blocked by hundreds of members of the Awajún and Wampis peoples, one large group of participants refused to join in the singing of Peru's national anthem that opened the gathering. Carlos Altamirano Rafael, leader of the Interests Front of Condorcanqui, said he believed that no justice is possible within Peru, and that the two peoples should declare independence or unite with Ecuador.
Hundreds of campesinos on March 1 established an encampment and began building a large shelter on the shores of Laguna Azul, within the lease area of the Conga mining project, pledging to block any attempt by the Yanacocha company to bring in equipment. At nightfall, the campesinos from the provinces of Bambamarca, Celendín and Cajamarca, are holding an assembly as some 300 National Police have surrounded them. Edy Benavides, a leader of the camp and president of the Defense Front of Hualgayoc (a municipal district in Bambamarca), accused Yanacocha of lying to the people of the region in its claim to have "suspended" the Conga project. Other leaders of the encampment are Milton Sánchez, president of the Interinstitutional Platform of Celendín, and Marco Arana, leader of the political movement Tierra y Libertad. (La Republica, RPP, March 1)
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 Yanacocha mining company—that seeking to develop the controversial Conga project in Cajamarca region—is appealing a ruling of the National Water Authority (ANA) barring expansion of its existing mine into new lands within its concession area. The lands, at a place called La Quinua Sur, lie within the headwaters of the Río Grande, which supplies water to the city of Cajamarca. Technically, the expansion, dubbed Yanacocha Oeste, was approved late last year by the Ministry of Energy and Mining (MINEM), but ANA denied approval to discharge effluent into local waterways that drain into the river. This effectively bars plans to develop a new open-pit mine at Quinua Sur.
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)
Villages in the area to be impacted by the controversial Conga gold mine in Peru's Cajamarca region announced last week that they will hold a referendum on the project—with the support of the regional government but not Lima. The vote will be held in Celendin and Bambamarca provinces in July, said a statement from the Cajamarca Unitary Struggle Command (CUL). "A consultation will be held on the Minas Conga project in order to see what the population thinks," said the CUL's Marco Arana. The consultation is being organized by traditional village authorities, and seems not to have been endorsed by the provincial governments. The mayor of Huasmin district in Celendín, José Eriberto Marín Agusti, is backing the referendum.