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Late last night President Humala, in a nationally televised address, declared a State of Emergency in four provinces in the state of Cajamarca. The provinces have been the center of the country’s anti-mining protests for the past months because of the record-breaking $4.8 billion Conga gold mine project.

The declaration comes after nearly two weeks of sustained protests in the region calling for the Conga Project, owed by Denver-based Newmont Mining, to be cancelled permanently. Communities and farmers claim that the project threatens the water that has been relied on for livelihood and survival for generations.

“We are not radical. It's just that the Conga project has no legitimacy in the eyes of the people.” Milton Sanchez, one of many protest leaders

Newmont had sought to assure communities that their access to water so would not be impacted because they intend on replacing lakes, which would be drained and destroyed in order to mine, with man-made reservoirs. As the highly disputed Environmental Impact Statement explains, some of these reservoirs will be used to provide communities with water, while another will be used to store mine wastes.

The State of Emergency, which took place at midnight last night, is to stay in place for 60 days per Humala’s order. This is a troubling development owing to the restrictions on civil liberties that are imposed during a state of emergency. The emergency restricts civil liberties such as the right to assembly and allows arrests without warrants.

This announcement followed the Interior Ministry asking prosecutors to file criminal charges against five leaders, including President of the Cajamarca state. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the region has witnessed this troubling strategy of criminalizing community leaders that are opposed to extractive industries exploiting their lands. 

The Humala administration has said that the State of Emergency may be lifted in agreement is reached with communities. We hope that Peru’s Northern Andes is the site of fruitful, good-faith dialogue between communities, local officials, the federal government, and mining companies, rather than the site of increasing militarization and reduced civil liberties.

Newmont’s CEO Richard O'Brien, in a statement to the AP, said that if Newmont was unable to continue with Conga, “the scale and diversity of Newmont's global portfolio” would allow the Denver-based company to “re-prioritize and reallocate capital” to “alternatives in Nevada, Canada, Ghana, Indonesia and Suriname.” Now if Newmont can “re-prioritize” environmental protection and “reallocate” their energy to gain free, prior, and informed community consent to their projects we may not have to see scenes like Conga continue to play out around the world.

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