Despite a curfew the protests continued yesterday against the ‘Conga’ mining project in the northern Cajamarca region, where three demonstrators were arrested by police that intervened to disperse a group of activists. Among the arrested was also a leader of the movement, the former priest Marco Arana, who heads the Land and Liberty environmentalist party. There are contrasting reports on his detention conditions at a police station in Cajamarca. Arana claimed that the officers beat him, while government sources cited by the local El Comercio newspaper assured that “his personal safety is respected” and that the activist may be transferred to another location in the next hours.
After the violent protests Tuesday that left three dead and some twenty injured, the government of Lima declared a 30 day state of emergency in the Celendín, Hualgayoc and Cajamarca provinces. The demonstrations began eight months ago against the $4.8 billion ‘Conga’ project, run by the Yanacocha company that is affiliated to the US Newmont. At the end of 2011, the objectors of the largest ever mining investment in Peru set up road blocks and paralyzed the North, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency.
The political standoff is also heightening between the provincial governor of Cajamarca, Gregorio Santos, and President Ollanta Humala. “It appears that the government is seeking a violent outcome, given that so far it has failed to end the peaceful resistance against Conga”, stated the governor, adding that the situation will favour miners in detriment to farmers who are already in difficulty. The project, due to begin in 2014, foresees the substitution of four natural lakes with artificial plants, raising the fears of local residents over water supplies. The project was approved in 2010 by the government of former president Alan Garcia and obtained consensus from current President Humala, who has been in office for a year.