State Of Emergency In Cajamarca Follows Four Deaths in Mine Protests

A state of emergency has been declared in three provinces in the Andean department of Cajamarca, located in northern Peru, following the deaths of four people during protests against the multi-billion dollar Conga gold project.

Peru’s Executive branch approved the measure, which curtails civil liberties, in the provinces of Cajamarca, Celendin and Hualgayoc. The state of emergency came into force on Wednesday and will be valid for 30 days, the government said.

The measure follows the death in Celendin of three people and more than 30 injured on Tuesday, during clashes between police and demonstrators.  One of the persons killed was 17 years old.  More than 15 people were arrested.  On the same day, a man was killed during protests in Bambamarca, capital of the province of Hualgayoc.

This week’s protests, with Minas Conga still in focus, are against the mayors of 65 districts who last week were in Lima with President Humala at the Government Palace to accept government investment in a series of infrastructure projects in their provinces.   

It is the second time since last December that Peru has declared a state of emergency in Cajamarca to control escalating protests against the $4.8 billion Minas Conga project, which is being developed by gold mining company Yanacocha.

Yanacocha is majority controlled by US-based Newmont Mining (51%), with Peru’s Minas Buenaventura owning 49%.

Protests late last year against Minas Conga, over worries that it would harm the water supply to farmers, resulted in the suspension of the project. 

At the same time, the delay in reaching an agreement with protesters pushed President Humala to make a major cabinet shuffle late last year, appointing former Interior minister Oscar Valdes as his new premier to apply a stronger hand in quelling the protests.  Those against the mining project have only become more entrenched.

Independent consultants hired by the government have reviewed the Minas Conga environmental impact study, and the government said recently that the company could restart work if it made some changes like building water reservoirs before starting construction of the mine.

However, opposition has remained strong despite attempts by Peru’s government to resolve the dispute. One of the main opponents of the project is the regional government of Cajamarca, led by far-left governor Gregorio Santos.

Santos rejected the state of emergency and called on the government to lift the measure.

Minas Conga is the latest in a number of mining projects that have been targeted by community opposition, largely over environmental concerns. Analysts say some $50 billion in mining investments are at risk due to the social conflicts in Peru, a country where mining has been the lynchpin of economic growth.

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