A state of emergency in the northern region of Cajamarca was extended on Friday for a further 30 days.
The government enacted the state of emergency in early July for an initial 30 days in an attempt to gain control over protests that turned deadly against Yanacocha’s Minas Conga gold project. Five people were killed in those protests.
The project has faced heavy opposition from local activists and politicians worried that it will dry up the water supply to communities, which the company denies.
The protests over Minas Conga led to the resignation late last year of President Ollanta Humala’s first cabinet chief, Salomon Lerner Ghitis, and was the main reason for the resignation in late July of his second cabinet chief, Oscar Valdes. The President replaced Valdes with former Justice Minister Juan Jimenez in a cabinet shuffle that included five other minister changes, during the week he completed his first year in power.
Jimenez has backed away from a hardline approach to resolving the protests used by his predecessor, and promised more negotiations. He has announced an overhaul of a government office responsible for ending the disputes, and replaced the head of that office.
Vladimiro Huaroc, the new head of the office, now called the National Office of Dialogue and Sustainability, said that the extension of the state of emergency aims to maintain normal activities in the provinces of Cajamarca, Celendin and Hualgayoc.
“We aren’t thinking of repressive attitudes by any means,” daily El Comercio reported Huaroc as saying. “We think that Cajamarca has to find the path to reflect on the situation soon. I imagine that at this moment the leaders are doing that.”
Although the extension of the state of emergency has not contributed to improving attitudes at the bargaining table —Monsignor Cabrejos of Trujillo, who heads the government-Cajamarca authority negotiations, had requested the government not extend the state of emergency — talks do continue, albeit without Cajamarca’s regional president Gregorio Santos.
Santos said the government had effectively “liquidated” the talks moderated by the priests Miguel Cabrejos and Gaston Garatea and said all other parties were free to continue negotiations but that he would no longer participate.
Several other Peruvian mining projects have faced similar opposition from residents.