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Peru battles widespread local hostility to mining proj:International Black Hawk Mines

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  • Peru battles widespread local hostility to mining proj:International Black Hawk Mines

    Manthorpe: Peru battles widespread local hostility to mining projects: International Black Hawk Mines News

    Hundreds of local farmers besieged the exploration mining camp of Vancouver-based Candente Copper Corp. in northern Peru last week after clashes with police in which at least four people were wounded.

    The protests against the Canariaco project in Peru’s northern region of Lambayeque, in which up to 20 people have been wounded by police bullets according to local doctors, is the latest in about 150 similar disputes between local people and mining operations in the last five years.

    But in a statement last week Candente’s chief executive Joanne Freeze insisted “There are business interests working to make it look like a community issue. It is pretty well known that this is not what it appears to be.”

    However, the unrest is so intense throughout the country’s mineral belt that investment in mining in Peru, which produces about 60 per cent of the country’s export revenues, is predicted to fall by 33 per cent or almost $3 billion this year, according to the Peru Mining, Oil and Energy Society.

    Peru is the world’s second biggest producer of copper and silver, and a major producer of gold, zinc and lead.

    The common themes in the protests are fears of water contamination and other environmental damage, lack of prior consultation with local people, and anger that so few of the economic benefits from the mining operations are gathered by surrounding communities.

    The local hostility towards mining operations and other resource industries is a major headache for left-wing President Ollanta Humala, who won a narrow victory over his conservative opponent Keiko Fujimori in the 2011 election.

    Humala, a former army officer who led an unsuccessful coup in 2000, campaigned on promises to foster “social inclusion” and ensure a more equitable distribution of the wealth created by mining industries.

    However, having vigorously opposed some mining projects during the campaign, such as the now stalled United States company Newport Mining’s Conga copper and gold operation, once in office Humala re-calibrated his stance toward supporting extractive industry investment.

    Humala’s shift is a recognition of the reality that much of Peru’s economic vitality, which has seen average annual growth rates of six per cent in the last few years, is dependent on mineral exports.

    Peru remains a very poor country, but between 2007 and 2011 the proportion of the country’s 30 million people living in extreme poverty has dropped from 42 per cent to 28 per cent, largely because of revenue from extractive industries.

    But Humala’s message that the best way forward is encouraging mining investment within an appropriate framework of social advancement has largely fallen on deaf ears among the increasingly militant local communities.

    The President’s popularity has plummeted as a result of what the social movements see as a betrayal of his election promises.

    The animosity around the Newport Mining’s Conga project is symptomatic of the national malaise and is especially bitter because five local people were killed in demonstrations at the site.

    Local farmers believe already inadequate water supplies in that arid part of the country will be polluted by the mine, making their crops unsaleable.

  • #2
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