The confrontation occurred when some 100 police tried to remove a week-long road blockade set up by about 400 protesters, RPP television reported.
Initial reports said that two people died in the clash, but a regional police officer later clarified that there were no fatalities.
“The weapons used don’t cause death, but they can provoke some injuries,” said police officer Jorge Linares.
He said that four people were injured, although media reports have said up to 20 people were hurt in the incident.
The open pit project, near Ferreñafe in the department of Lambayeque, is owned by Canada’s Candente Copper and has come under growing pressure from local residents that oppose it over concerns it could hurt their farms.
But according to Cañaris town councilman Ulises German, the project is pitting one part of the community against the other, where those protesting the project are bringing in supporters from Jaen and forcefully threatening those in the community who are in favor of or at least not against the project.
Vladimiro Huaroc, head of the Cabinet’s Office for Dialogue of the Presidency, said that a roundtable will be held in Cañaris on February 2, as planned before Friday’s violence. The vice-minister of Energy and Mines, Guillermo Shinno, said the community of Cañaris was being misinformed of the environmental risks of the mining project.
The explorations manager of Cañariaco, Enrique Bernuy, believes the conflict is due to the failure by many of the projects initial collaborators, between 2004 and 2008, who did not execute the social programs promised and that are now being taken up by Candente.
“The company has never eluded its responsibility… Since 2004 and to date, the company has invested approximately S/.42 mn in infrastructure, such as medical posts, schools and roads,” Bernuy said. “We’ve also invested S/.2.2 mn in social projects,” with an additional S/.1.5 mn approved for communities adjacent to the project.
Political analyst Santiago Pedraglio has criticized the methods that the government and police continue to use to push back mining protests, immediately seeking to accuse leaders rather than listening and seeking peaceful solutions long beforehand.
Violent clashes between police and communities against natural resource projects have been common in Peru.
President Ollanta Humala’s first year in office was mired by several deadly conflicts, including those involving projects owned by international mining firms Newmont Mining and Xstrata, the Conga gold project in Cajamarca and copper in the south region of Espinar.