Marco Arana Peru Protest Conga Mine Police

When Gold Loses Its Luster: Four Dead in Peru Mining Protests

Circle of Blue reporter Codi Yeager reports that a heavy price is being paid in the outcry against the Minas Conga gold project and its potential impact on water resources.

A new wave of protests over the proposed $US 4.8 billion Minas Conga gold mine led Peruvian President Ollanta Humala to declare a state of emergency for the third time since he took office a year ago. Clashes between protesters and police this week left four people dead.

Peruvian environmental activist Marco Arana, accused of organizing meetings during a state of emergency, was forcefully arrested by police this week. Arana and others are protesting the proposed $US 4.8 billion Minas Conga gold mine in Cajamarca. Click image to watch video.

Those opposing the mine were angered further after police forcefully arrested activist leader Marco Arana, a former Catholic priest. Arana was accused of organizing meetings (freedom of movement and the freedom to assemble are suspended during a state of emergency, and police can make arrests without warrants, Bloomberg News reported).

President Humala declared an emergency in May, after two people died during a copper mining protest in Cuzco, and in December 2011 when protests over the Conga project closed schools and blocked roads.

Gold Mining & Water
High demand for gold and other metals has triggered a rush of foreign investment in South America, among other regions, and is expected to bring Peru $US 50 billion over the next decade.
But gold mining, as I reported last month, can indeed pose significant threats to water resources, if it is not done properly.

I’ve been following this story for quite some time, and I wrote briefly about the proposed Conga mine in April, right after an international environmental review of the project recommended improving protections for water — the primary concern behind the protests. The mine’s operator, Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation, has since agreed to make the suggested changes, and last week President Humala allowed the company to restart construction that has been suspended since November. But local residents remain concerned about the mine’s potential impact on drinking water and agriculture.

The fight for water rights takes many shapes in South America. You can read this article about Chile, this story about Ecuador, and this article about indigenous rights, all written by Circle of Blue’s assistant editor Aubrey Ann Parker, to learn more.

Do you have any thoughts on Peru, mining, or water rights? Contact Codi Yeager

–Codi Yeager-Kozacek
Circle of Blue Reporter

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