Peru: peasant leader killed in Cajamarca

A campesino leader in Peru's Cajamarca region, the scene of ongoing protests over mining operations, was assassinated June 26. Carlos Vásquez Becerra, vice president of the Provincial Federation of Rondas Campesinas (peasant self-defense patrols) was found beaten to death in Chiramayo Canyon in his native Santa Cruz province. The day before, he had led a meeting of comuneros in nearby Ninabamba district to plan protests against the operations of La Zanja mining company.  The National Unitary Center of Rondas Campesinas of Peru (CUNARC) is demanding an investigation. (Caballero Verde, La Nueva Prensa, Cajamarca, RPP, June 26) One campeisno was killed in protests over La Zanja's local operations in 2004.

Peru: new stand-off at Conga mine site

Some 4,000 campesino protesters again converged on the Conga mine site in Peru's northern Cajamarca region June 18, pledging to establish an encampment around Laguna El Perol and remain there to prevent its destruction. The Yanacocha mining company, after announcing that it would begin diverting the lake's waters to an artificial reservoir to permit mining on the site, last week reversed itself and said this work would begin next year. But protest leaders say they believe destruction of the lake is imminent. At press time, the protesters are facing off with some 1,000 troops from the National Police Special Operations Division (DINOES). 

Peru: demands emerge for 'plurinational state'

Vladimiro Huaroc, head of Peru's National Office of Dialogue and Sustainability (ONDS), weighed in on the controversy over the country's new Prior Consultation Law June 14, in comments published in the official newspaper El Peruano. "There are many sectors that want the government to execute these actions as soon as possible, and we do not understand the trouble," he wrote. Seeming to address assertions by President Ollanta Humala that the law should not apply in the country's sierras, Huaroc invoked Peru's responsibilities under ILO Convention 169 and stated, "Probably, there are sectors that are not adequately informed" about the government's responsibilities to indigenous communities. "Prior consultation means informing the population; the Executive must do everything possible so that communities know in detail the economic processes that will be realized." 

Peru: is Conga project cancelled?

Jorge Merino, chief of Peru's Ministry of Energy and Mines, responded on June 10 to reports in the media that the controversial gold project at Conga, in northern Cajamarca region, has been cancelled. The site, an extension of Newmont Mining's giant Yanacocha complex, remains under occupation by local campesinos, and clashes with police troops there have become frequent. "The information I have from the company is that they are making re-adjustments in Yanacocha and Conga," Merino said. "In agreement with the workers, there has been a reduction in the order of 50 workers who will be relocated, but I strongly deny that there is a position that Conga has intentions to leave. Conga continues... I have spoken with functionaries of Newmont, and the project is going ahead."

Peru: new confrontation at Conga mine site

National Police fired on protesters occupying the site of the Conga gold mining project in Peru's Cajamarca region on May 28, leaving one wounded in the leg and abdomen. Police, including elite troops from the Special Operations Divsion (DINOES), opened fire as some 1,500 campesinos were marching on El Perol laguna, to establish an encampement there. The Yanacocha mining company recently announced that it will begin pumping El Perol to divert the water into a reservoir and permit mining on the site—despite the fact that the project is officially suspended. A nearby reservoir dubbed Chaillhuagón has already been built, the company announced; the original laguna of that name is slated to become a pit-mine if the project moves ahead. The company says the new reservoirs will be made available for use by local residents, but Cajamarca's Unitary Struggle Command (CUL), which is coordinating the protests, pledges to resist any damage to the lagunas. (La Republica, Servindi, Servindi, CAOI, May 28; La Republica, May 23)

Peru: clash at Conga mine site

Some 400 campesino protesters at the site of the Conga mining project in Peru's Cajamarca region on April 11 stormed the 200-strong lines of the National Police Special Forces Division (DINOES), to occupy the area around  El Perol lake, where they vandalized property, putting pipes and other equipment to the torch. The Yanacocha mining company evacuated its personnel and removed its machinery from the site. About 150 protesters continued to occupy the property, although Yanacocha said the next day that they had all been evicted. Comuneros from the provinces of Celendín and Bambamarca led the action, pressing demands that Yanacocha halt all operations at the site.

Peru: new anti-mining struggle in Cajamarca

National Police troops attacked hundreds of campesinos in the Valle de Condebamba of Peru's northern Cajamarca region in a March 11 protest against the mineral operations of Canadian-owned Sulliden Gold Corporation. Cajamarca's regional government issued a statement saying the march was peaceful and had been attacked arbitrarily, leaving eight campesinos injured, including a pregnant woman. The protest, in Cachachi district, was organized by the rondas (self-defense patrols) of Cajabamba province.

Peru: Newmont denies plans to quit Cajamarca

Peru's Yanacocha mining company, majority-owned by the world's number two gold producer, Newmont Mining of Colorado, on March 7 denied press reports that it is planning to leave the gold-rich northern region of Cajamarca no later than 2016. In a statement, Yanacocha CEO Javier Velarde said the company will continue to exploit its massive mine in Cajamarca at least through 2015, while evaluating new projects elsewhere in Peru. The Yanacocha mine's plans for expansion have been the focus of protest campaigns in Cajamarca for more than a year now. "We have openly acknowledged the challenges ahead, but we never said the company was leaving Cajamarca by 2016," said Velarde in the statement. (, March 8; Gato Encerrado, March 7)

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