Casapalca mine workers end 4-day protest that left one policeman dead

Miners ended protests and cleared blocked roads Friday in the mining town of Casapalca – located in the Lima hills, more than 3,800 meters above sea level – four days after violent protests left five people dead, including a police officer who was crushed by a large stone.

According to an agreement reached late last night after more than seven hours of negotiation, miners agreed to go back to work after companies subcontracted by the mine consented to pay money promised last May.

A special voucher, valued at 266 soles, or $89, was approved in May, but has yet to be paid out to the miners.

Workers in Casapalca often work 12-hour days for less than 350 soles, or $116 per month, according to union workers.

The agreement also includes guarantees that striking miners will not be sacked, nor be victims of hostile treatment by their employers. The subcontractors have also agreed to respect Peruvian labor laws, and to reincorporate workers currently collaborating with police investigations.

Judge Rubén Acevedo Contreras formally pressed charges against six miners for crimes against public security, public tranquility, violence and resisting authority on Friday. No charges were pressed for the death of the policeman.

Police Captain Giuliano Carlo Villarreal Lobatón, 31, was killed when a 50-kilogram rock thrown down a hillside by protesters hit him in the head.

Discontented mine workers initiated the road blockades and strike early Monday, to protest poor working conditions, the unpaid voucher, and the sacking of 300 fellow miners last May.

A shower of stones was thrown when police tried to clear the road blockades spread out along three kilometers, just under two miles, leaving hundreds of vehicles blocked.

Mining in the Casapalca district dates back to the early Spanish colonial period. The Backus and Johnston Company began systematic exploration and development of the area in the late 1800’s, and were subsequently bought out by the Cerro de Pasco Corporation in 1921.

Later, in 1974, Centromin Peru gained ownership. In the purchase agreement of 1997, the Casapalca mining district was split into two mining areas, the Yauliyacu Mine and on the eastern side the Casapalca Mine, although both mines are connected underground. The Casapalca mine contains silver, zinc, lead and copper deposits.

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