Peru government cancels mine after violent clashes in Puno


By Jorge Riveros-Cayo

Peru cancels mine after violent clashes in Puno
Six people have been killed today in the violent clash between protesters and police members in Juliaca, Puno. (Photo: El Comercio)

At least six people are reported to have been shot dead as a result of violent clashes between demonstrators and police and army members in the southeastern city of Juliaca, Puno.

The demonstrators were turned back trying to take over the Manco Cápac International Airport in Juliaca, but four were shot dead in the process. Parts of the airport were set on fire and there is was at least one dead body lying on the tarmac, reported El Comercio and RPP.

Television images of the airport showed its perimeter walls breached and tires burning.

Roads have been blocked since May 9 in a bid to cancel the Santa Ana mine as well as a proposed hydroelectric project on the Inambari river.

Today the García administration canceled the Canadian-owned silver mine as a result of the extreme violence that, so far has reported six people killed and at least 30 wounded when police fired on mostly indigenous protesters opposing the project.

Journalists reported that at least 5,000 protesters were involved in strikes and demonstrations.

Interior Minister, Miguel Hidalgo, said police in the nearby city of Azangaro were "in a difficult situation."

El Comercio has reported recently that protesters have surrounded the police station and set it on fire. Four members have been reported missing and presumably held as hostages.

Local radio reports said protesters are angry over the deaths of the demonstrators in Juliaca and were besieging the local police station.

Mine’s reaction

Hours after the violence, mining vice minister, Fernando Gala, announced that the government had revoked a 2007 decree granting approval to Bear Creek Mining Corp. of Victoria, British Columbia, to mine silver at Santa Ana in Puno.

Bear Creek’s director, Andrew Swarthout, said the company had not received formal notification of the decree’s revocation, according The Associated Press.

He said any government attempt to cancel the project would be illegal and amount to "expropriation."

"We followed all the rules. We got public consent. We’re in the middle of an environmental impact statement. It was due process. Everything was within the letter of the law," Swarthout said.

The company has said it already spent $96 million on the Santa Ana project.

Swarthout has warned previously that any attempt to end the project would give pause to international investors who have announced their intention to plow more than $40 billion into Peru’s mining sector in the coming decade.

Mining accounts for two-thirds of Peru’s export earnings and has been the underpinning of a decade of robust economic growth, but the rural poor have benefited little from mining and complain it contaminates their water and crops.

Watch images of the violent demonstrations today in Juliaca and Azángaro, Puno (Video footage: Panamericana Televisión):