Fifth Person Killed In Minas Conga Protests

A fifth person died Thursday, from injuries sustained earlier in the week, as violent clashes between police officers and opponents of a large-scale gold mining project in northern Peru continued.

Gregorio Santos, the regional president of Cajamarca and a stiff opponent of Newmont Mining’s Minas Conga project, confirmed the death on Twitter Thursday.

“Jose Antonio Sanchez Huaman, 29, died (after) being injured by a gun shot on July 3,” Santos said.  Sanchez was wounded in Celendin, where protestors had attempted an attack on the municipality because the town’s mayor and 64 other district mayors had accepted financial aid for infrastructure at a Government Palace ceremony with President Humala. 

 The government declared a state of emergency on Tuesday in an attempt to restore order by suspending civil liberties.

On Wednesday, police hauled off another prominent opponent of Minas Conga, former Catholic priest Marco Arana, who was sitting in the capital’s main square with a sign to protest the state of emergency. There were a few people nearby but not beyond the limit permitted.

Televised images showed police —the People’s Ombudsman said there were 40—surrounding Arana, forcing him on the ground and then dragging him to a police vehicle in a headlock. Arana, who was later released, said “they hit me a lot. In the police station they hit me again. Fists to the face, the kidneys, insults.”

The government’s actions resulted in calls for restraint by several leading politicians, including Lima Mayor Susana Villaran, who said that police were using excessive force to restore order.

The Minas Conga project, which will require an investment of about $4.8 billion —the country’s biggest project ever— is being developed by gold mining company Yanacocha.

Yanacocha is majority owned by US-based Newmont Mining, with Compañia de Minas Buenaventura as partner.

Protesters want the project canceled, saying that plans to drain mountain lakes will harm water supplies. The company denies that the project will hurt the environment, and say that it will instead increase the supply of water to farmers and other residents.

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