Peru: police surround Conga occupation

Hundreds of campesinos on March 1 established an encampment and began building a large shelter on the shores of Laguna Azul, within the lease area of the Conga mining project, pledging to block any attempt by the Yanacocha company to bring in equipment. At nightfall, the campesinos from the provinces of Bambamarca, Celendín and Cajamarca, are holding an assembly as some 300 National Police have surrounded them. Edy Benavides, a leader of the camp and president of the Defense Front of Hualgayoc (a municipal district in Bambamarca), accused Yanacocha of lying to the people of the region in its claim to have "suspended" the Conga project. Other leaders of the encampment are Milton Sánchez, president of the Interinstitutional Platform of Celendín, and Marco Arana, leader of the political movement Tierra y Libertad. (La Republica, RPP, March 1)

Peru: mining company rejects Conga referendum

In a Feb. 13 press conference in Peru's northern city of Cajamarca, leaders of the regional Unitary Struggle Command, joined by congressional deputy Jorge Rimarachín, announced a new cross-country march on the alpine lagunas threatened by the Conga gold-mining project. Leaders said the march, to begin at month's end from local campesino communities, would culminate a few days later in an occupation of area around the lakes to secure them against any move by the Yanacocha mining company. (Celendin Libre, Feb. 23) That same day, Yanacocha issued a statement rejecting plans by impacted communities to hold a consulta or referendum on the project. Yanacocha spokesman Javier Velarde said: "If we are going to accept conultas every time there is a project that wants to be developed, and if the consultas are on the margin of the law, without the participation of the authorities, we will be placing in danger all the mineral industry at the national level." (Celendin Libre, Feb. 23)

Peru: water authority rejects mine expansion

Peru's Yanacocha mining company—that seeking to develop the controversial Conga project in Cajamarca region—is appealing a ruling of  the National Water Authority (ANA) barring expansion of its existing mine into new lands within its concession area. The lands, at a place called La Quinua Sur, lie within the headwaters of the Río Grande, which supplies water to the city of Cajamarca. Technically, the expansion, dubbed Yanacocha Oeste, was approved late last year by the Ministry of Energy and Mining (MINEM), but ANA denied approval to discharge effluent into local waterways that drain into the river. This effectively bars plans to develop a new open-pit mine at Quinua Sur. 

Peru: villages to hold referendum on Conga project

Villages in the area to be impacted by the controversial Conga gold mine in Peru's Cajamarca region announced last week that they will hold a referendum on the project—with the support of the regional government but not Lima. The vote will be held in Celendin and Bambamarca provinces in July, said a statement from the Cajamarca Unitary Struggle Command (CUL). "A consultation will be held on the Minas Conga project in order to see what the population thinks," said the CUL's Marco Arana. The consultation is being organized by traditional village authorities, and seems not to have been endorsed by the provincial governments. The mayor of Huasmin district in Celendín, José Eriberto Marín Agusti, is backing the referendum.

Peru: new mobilization against Conga project

Jan. 12 saw a new mobilization in the northern Peruvian city of Cajamarca against the pending Conga mining project, with some 1,000 local campesinos and their supporters filling the Plaza de Armas with music, banners and slogans. Participants accused the Yanacocha mining company of "intending to privatize" the region's water resources, and of being complicit in the "criminalization of protest." Residents of the community of Baños del Inca proclaimed their readiness to occupy La Shacsa, a nearby mountain within Yanacocha's active concession area, if the Conga project moves ahead. The march was convened by Wilfredo Saavedra, leader of the Cajamarca Environmental Defense Front. (Servindi, Jan. 15)

Peru: Conga project to advance in 2013?

Peru's Minister of Mines and Energy, Jorge Merino, assured international investors Dec. 21 that his government will make every effort to see the controversial Conga and Tía María mining projects move forward in 2013. The two projects, in Cajamarca and Arequipa region, respectivamente, have both been suspended after campesino protests.  The pledge is part of the Ollanta Humala government's plan to attract $10 million in mining investment in 2013, $10 million more than this year. Merino also vowed to build new compression plants to expand the capacity of the trans-Andean Camisea gas pipeline from 1,200 cubic feet to 1,600. (El Comercio, Dec. 21)

Peru: protest over mine's water diversion

On Dec. 19, some 6,000 campesinos and their supporters filled the streets of Chiclayo, capital of Peru's northern Lambayeque region, demanding the repeal of the National Water Authority's resolutions  089-2012 and 090-2012, which authoritize La Zanja mining company to begin dumping waste water in the canyons of La Pampa and El Cedro, inland across the border in Cajamarca region. These canyons empty into the Río Chancay, which flows back into Lambayeque (where it joins with the Río Reque to meet the sea near Chiclayo). The rally concluded at the Lambayeque regional government headquaters, where representatives of different organizations making up the Lambayeque Unitary Struggle Command (CULL) delivered a message to regional president Humberto Acuña Peralta, demanding that he take immediate action to protect the waters of the Río Chancay.

Peru: Conga mine opponents threatened

On Dec. 15 in the city of Cajamarca, Peru, unknown persons broke into the house of attorney Mirtha Vásquez, a director of the NGO Grufides, a leading voice in the struggle against the controversial Conga mine project. One day earlier, the truck of Sergio Sánchez, a member of the Grufides team, was vandalized; five weeks earlier, the home of another Grufides activist, Ivett Sánchez, was similarly broken into. The incidents follow a report in Revista Caretas after Arana was assaulted by police during protests in July that the National Police had dispatched units of the Intelligence Directorate (DIRIN) to tail him. (GRUFIDES, Dec. 17)

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