In a turn-around in the conflict over the proposed Conga gold mine in Cajamarca, Peru, right-wing fujimorista congressman from the region, Joaquín Ramírez Gamarra, has come out publicly for shelving the project in the interests of social peace. "The suspension of the Conga mining project is the best path to follow," he said. "It will permit us to not only calm the situation, but also to open spaces for dialogue." Breaking ranks with President Ollanta Humala, he added: "The state of emergency should be lifted; the provinces of Cajamarca, Celendín and Bambamarca cannot remain under a state of exception. This would say much about the proposal for an opening on the part of the Executive." (El Mercurio, Cajamarca, Aug. 14; RPP, Aug. 7)
Residents of the area around the city of Cotuí, the capital of the Dominican Republic's central province of Sánchez Ramírez, held a protest against the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation on Aug. 8, charging that the company's giant Pueblo Viejo gold mine was contaminating drinking water and affecting residents' health and their crops. The residents also complained that the company's trucks had been causing accidents. Pueblo Viejo, constructed on the site of a state-owned mine shut down in 1999, is scheduled to open this month. Barrick Gold is the largest open-pit gold mining company in the world; it maintains 27 mines, in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Tanzania and the US. (Adital, Brazil, Aug. 8, from TeleSUR; Prensa Latina, Aug. 8)
More than 500 residents in the campesino community of Tumpa in Yungay province of Peru's central Andean region of Áncash, began blocking roads leading to the local operations of the Mina California company Aug. 6, declaring an open-ended paro (civil strike) to demand a halt to the mine's pollution of local waters. The mine is located near Nevado Huascarán, Peru's highest mountain, and the national park of the same name, which forms the headwaters of several of Peru's major rivers. (Servindi, Aug. 6) That same day, Aymara indigenous residents of Acora community in Puno region announced that a 72-hour paro will begin Aug. 13, to protest President Ollanta Humala's plans to move ahead with the Pasto Grande II irrigation project. The Pasto Grande II project would divert waters from the Lake Titicaca basin for agribusiness tracts on the coast in Moquegua region. The strike, called by the South Puno Natural Resources Defense Front, will also protest contamination of local waters by mining and other extractive industries. (Pachamama Radio, Aug. 10; Los Andes via La Mula, Aug. 6)
The president of Peru's Cajamarca region, Gregorio Santos, said Aug. 9 that he sees no purpose in continuing talks with two Roman Catholic priests trying to mediate a peaceful solution to the dispute over the proposed Conga gold-mining project. "The facilitators have already completed their tasks," Santos said. "The facilitators aren't going to make any decisions. The executive branch already knows the position of the people of Cajamarca." The statement came the day after facilitators, Trujillo Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos and dissident priest Gaston Garatea (suspended from the ministry by the Archdiocese of Lima for his populist positions), met with Prime Minister Juan Jiménez and other members of President Ollanta Humala's cabinet. The facilitators issued a statement calling on the central government to lift the state of emergency that was imposed on much of Cajamarca region in early July following an escalations of protests against the Conga project. (Dow Jones, Aug. 9; Andina, Aug. 8; CNA, July 24)
Six Mexican coal miners were killed on Aug. 3 when some 100 tons of coal and rock collapsed in a mine operated by Altos Hornos de México S.A. de C.V. (AHMSA) in Barroterán community, Progreso municipality, in the northern state of Coahuila. One miner was trapped but survived with minor injuries; he was rescued about an hour after the collapse. The other 287 workers in the mine escaped without injuries. Some workers thought a methane explosion caused the accident, but management attributed it to "a pocket of methane gas," not an explosion.
The Pueblo Viejo gold mine in Cotuí in the Dominican Republic's central province of Sánchez Ramírez is starting operations this August, Jamie Sokalsky, CEO of the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation, told investors on July 26. The new mine, on a site abandoned by the state enterprise Rosario Dominicana in 1999, will produce up to 125,000 ounces of gold this year and reach full capacity during 2013, Sokalsky said.
A group of 23 contract workers occupied the San Ambrosio Church in Vallenar, capital of the northern Chilean province of Huasco, on the morning of Aug. 4 to protest labor conditions at Pascua Lama, an open-pit gold, silver and copper mine being built in the Andes at the border between Argentina and Chile. Eight of the protesters took over the bell tower, where they shouted and banged on the metal structure to draw attention to their complaints against the mine's operator, the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation.
More than 100 local residents were sickened by a spill of toxic copper concentrate at one of Peru's biggest mines Aug. 3. The Áncash regional health office said 140 people were treated for "irritative symptoms caused by the inhalation of toxins" after a pipeline carrying the concentrate under high pressure burst open in the village of Santa Rosa de Cajacay. Most of those affected had joined in efforts to prevent liquid copper slurry from reaching the nearby Río Fortaleza after the pipe linking the Antamina copper mine to the coast ruptured last week, said village mayor Hilario Morán. "Without taking into account the consequences, we pitched in to help," Morán told the Associated Press by phone. The people used absorbent fabric provided by the mine but were not given gloves or protective masks, admitted the mine's environmental director Antonio Mendoza. Shortly afterward, people became ill, vomiting, suffering headaches and nose bleeds.