Peru Police Arrest Newmont Protesters Amid Emergency Measure

Deadly Newmont Protests Lead Peru to Call State of Emergency
Activists against the Conga mining project shout slogans as thousands of residents march on May 29, 2012, in Cajamarca, northern Peru, during a demonstration for peace and regional development as a prelude to scheduled protests against mining projects in the region. Photographer: Mayer Abanto/AFP/GettyImages

Peruvian police cracked down on protests against Newmont Mining Corp.’s $4.8 billion Minas Conga after the government declared a state of emergency following the death of three people in demonstrations yesterday.

Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters this morning from the main square of Cajamarca, the capital of the northern Andean region that’s been rocked by eight months of anti-mining protests, Lima-based Canal N reported. Police arrested Marco Arana, head of a group that opposes Minas Conga, along with six other protesters, the television channel said. The opponents say the mine’s environmental impact study is flawed.

The government granted police emergency powers for 30 days to restore order in three provinces of the Cajamarca region where Newmont plans to build the copper and gold mine. The measure comes a week after Newmont was cleared to resume work that was halted in November when its installations in the area were destroyed during six days of protests. President Ollanta Humala allowed the restart by the largest U.S. gold producer after it pledged to build reservoirs to ensure water supplies for communities.

The clashes are a result of Humala’s government refusing to negotiate with those opposed to the project, regional president Gregorio Santos told Lima-based Radio Programas yesterday. Newmont is committed to talks and to the region, according to an e-mail from the company’s local unit late yesterday.

Celendin Riot

Three people were killed yesterday after as many as 2,000 people planned to storm municipal offices in Celendin, close to where the mine will be built, Radio Programas reported. The protesters set fire to vehicles and attacked other government buildings in the town, the Interior Ministry said. The violence also left 25 people injured, including two police officers who were shot in the leg, the ministry said.

Celendin Mayor Mauro Arteaga voiced support for Minas Conga following a June 28 meeting in Lima between Humala and 65 mayors from the Cajamarca region.

The unrest will damage Humala’s popularity among his rural support base and may lead more lawmakers to defect from his party, following the departure of four congressmen last month after clashes in Cuzco near Xstrata Plc’s Tintaya copper mine left two dead, said Diego Moya-Ocampos, a London-based analyst at IHS Global Insight.

“Humala’s stance is a clear sign that he is committed to continue supporting extractive industries as part of his plan to generate growth based on a social inclusion model, whatever the political cost,” Moya-Ocampos said in an e-mailed statement.

State of Emergency

The state of emergency suspends the freedom of movement and assembly and allows police to make arrests without a warrant while authorizing the armed forces to help the police maintain order.

Humala has used the measure three times since taking office last July to quell escalating unrest threatening more than $50 billion of planned mining investment in the next decade.

Newmont, which has invested $800 million in Conga to date, will spend $95 million on the construction of four reservoirs, Conga Project Manager Luis Arguelles said June 25.

“We renew our commitment to Cajamarca and to our faith in dialogue as a bridge to achieve understanding between everyone,” the statement from Newmont’s local unit said.

Newmont rose for a fourth day in Frankfurt trading, adding 0.3 percent to 39.42 euros. Newmont’s Peruvian partner in the Minas Conga project, Cia de Minas Buenaventura SAA, climbed 2.1 percent to $38.80 in Lima trading.

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