Washington, DC and Ottawa – The Peruvian government should immediately cease any violent repression of mining protesters, over 80 leading environmental and human rights organizations wrote today in a statement that will be delivered to Peruvian embassies and consulates in the United States and Canada. The statement condemns the recent brutal repression and human rights violations that have left five people dead, and dozens more injured, after police opened fire on protestors of US-based Newmont Mining Corporation’s proposed Conga gold mine in the country’s northern Andean province of Cajamarca.
The statement, whose signatories include Amazon Watch, Earthworks, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, MiningWatch Canada, Oxfam America, Rainforest Action Network and the United Steelworkers, voiced grave concerns about the alarming escalation in the repression of free speech, police brutalities, and human rights violations related to extractive industry projects in Peru. The signatories called on the Peruvian Government to immediately put an end to these abuses, and to seek peaceful and dialogue-based resolution to conflicts related to the Conga mine and other mining and energy projects in Peru.
Thousands of community members opposed to Newmont’s proposed $4.8 billion Minas Conga gold mine have been holding protests the region. Their principal concerns relate to the social and environmental impacts of the project, which would drain mountain lakes and replace them with man-made reservoirs, and generate massive quantities of toxic mine waste. Protests intensified last week after Newmont announced that they would be moving forward with the construction of the mine, despite growing community opposition. In the wake of the protests, and the Government’s violent response, the Peruvian government declared a State of Emergency in the region on July 3, bringing fears of additional violence.
The statement criticizes the Peruvian government for “violently suppressing community opposition to extractive projects” and called on Newmont, whose gold mine project has been the principal catalyst for the conflict, to “make a public declaration against the Peruvian Government’s violent repression of civil liberties and harassment of mining protestors.” The statement continues by calling on Newmont “to not proceed with the project without obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of affected communities.”
There is evidence of police targeting specific protest leaders. On July 4, the day after the Emergency was imposed, Father Marco Arana, a former Catholic priest and one of the many coordinators of the opposition to the Conga mine, was pulled from a public bench during a silent vigil, arrested and beaten. Father Marco suffered internal bleeding, a broken jaw, and other head injuries after being beaten while in custody. (For a video of the arrest caught on tape, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bw8FCelp8w)
The groups note that they “support communities’ rights to peaceful and non-violent protest,” and that they “denounce violence in any form.”
A copy of the statement including the list of signatories can be downloaded here.