Protestors in Peru vow to demonstrate until proposed mining project is rejected

By Environment News Service

Thousands of Peruvians protesting in the streets of Cajamarca against a proposed gold and copper mine say they will continue their demonstrations every day until the government rejects the development. They fear the surface open pit mine would pollute their water supplies and destroy the region’s environment.

The object of their anger is the Conga Project, located north of the Peruvian Andes 73 km (45 miles) northeast of the city of Cajamarca, at elevations ranging from 3,700 to 4,260 meters (12,140 to 13,980 feet). The mine would straddle two provinces, Cajamarca and Celendin.

The project is proposed by Minera Yanacocha, which already has a giant open pit mine in the area that has polluted water supplies with mercury, among other toxics.

Minera Yanacocha is a joint venture of three partners: Compañía de Minas Buenaventura of Peru, Newmont Mining Corp. of Denver, Colorado and the International Finance Corporation.

The Conga Environmental Impact Study, prepared for the Peruvian government by Knight Piésold Consulting, identifies the resource as 3.1 billion pounds of copper and 11.6 million ounces of gold to be extracted over 19 years. Concentrates would be trucked to Salaverry port on Peru’s north coast for transport to international markets.

After numerous demonstrations throughout April and a regional strike on April 11, organizers of the Cajamarca protests Wednesday declared a “permanent control conference,” with daily demonstrations and vigils, and public forums aimed at convincing the government of President Ollanta Humala to deny a permit for the new mine.

The protests continue despite the presence of police and military forces sent by the government to control demonstrators in the regional capital and other locations affected by the Conga project.

In Cajamarca, a rally in the Plaza de Armas Wednesday drew an estimated 10,000 people. There, Idelso Hernandez, president of the Front for the Defence of the Interests of Cajamarca, said the protests will continue at least until President Humala comes to Cajamarca to talk to the residents.

“The position of Cajamarca is adamant that the Conga project will not go ahead,” he said. “We are tired of the central government making fun of us, we will continue protests in other provinces and brigades until the people of Cajamarca are heard.”

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