Grupo Mexico's Southern Copper Corp on May 15 announced a 60-day halt in its huge Tia Maria project in southern Peru's Arequipa region following seven weeks of escalating protests in which three people have been killed and more than 200 injured. Company president Oscar Gonzalez said in a statement that the "pause" would let all sides air concerns and "identify solutions." Protesters in Cocachacra, the center of the conflict in Islay province, say they have no intention of backing down from their demand that the $1.4 billion project be canceled. Peru's President Ollanta Humala said canceling the project would expose the country to lawsuits and make it less attractive to investors.
The UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Sept. 2 issued a statement expressing "concern" about the "disproportionate use of force" against indigenous protesters in Peru. (Celendin Libre, AIDESEP, Sept. 2) The statement came the same day that a 16-year-old protester, Jhapet Claysont Huilca Pereira, was shot dead by National Police troops at Santa Teresa village in the Valley of La Convención, Cuzco region, during a protest against construction of the Gasoducto Sur Peruano through local lands. Protesters were blocking to road leading to the tourist attraction of Machu Picchu, charging corruption in the process by which the new gas duct gained a right-of-way through their lands. The parents of the fallen youth are demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Daniel Urresti Elera. Lawmaker Verónika Mendoza has also called on Urresti to give a full accounting of the incident, saying, "It is unacceptable that firearms are used in dealing with social conflicts." (La República, Sept. 4 La República, Celendin Libre, Celendin Libre, Sept. 3)
Highly vulnerable "uncontacted" indigenous bands who recently emerged in the Brazil-Peru border region have said that they were fleeing violent attacks in Peru. FUNAI, Brazil's indigenous affairs agency, has announced that the uncontacted bands have returned once more to their forest home. Seven members of the band made peaceful contact with a settled indigenous Ashaninka community near the Ríó Envira in Brazil's Acre state three weeks ago. A government health team was dispatched and has treated seven band members for flu. FUNAI has announced it will reopen a monitoring post on the Rió Envira which it closed in 2011 after it was overrun by drug traffickers. Survival International called the emerging news "extremely worrying," noting that isolated indigenous groups lack immunity to the flu, which has wiped out entire tribes in the past. Brazilian experts believe that the isolated bands, who belong to the Panoan linguistic group, crossed over the border from Peru into Brazil due to pressures from illegal loggers and drug traffickers on their land.
Gregorio Santos, regional president of Cajamarca in northern Peru, was ordered to turn himself in for "preventative" imprisonment by a local anti-corruption prosecutor on June 17. The prosecutor, Walter Delgado, said Santos is under investigation by Peru's Public Ministry for "illicit association" and bribery, although no details were provided. (La Republica, June 17) The left-wing Santos has been an outspoken opponent of the US-backed Conga mining project in Cajamarca. With Santos' support, the Conga site has for months been occupied by peasant protesters who oppose the mine project. A major mobilization was held at the site on June 5, to commemorate World Environment Day. (Celedín Libre, June 7)
Arizona-based Southern Copper is set to restart work at its controversial $1 billion Tía María copper project in Arequipa, Peru, within the next 90 days, Mines and Energy Minister, Jorge Merino said following a public meeting with local residents Dec. 19. Merino told Andina news agency that receiving support from the local community is “a big step forward," adding that it shows how "dialogue and coordinated efforts from national, regional and local authorities can make mega-projects happen." Peru's government sees the Tia Maria project as critical to boosting investment in the mineral sector. "It will show we have made inroads to resolve conflicts that have delayed several mining projects in Peru over concerns by communities about their environmental impact," Merino said.