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6 dead in violence between police and wildcat miners in Peru

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6 dead in violence between police and wildcat miners in Peru
A protest against new Peruvian government regulations aimed at curtailing pollution by artisanal miners turned deadly Sunday as police clashed with hundreds of protestors who were blocking Peru’s main highway.

Author: Dorothy Kosich
Posted: Tuesday , 06 Apr 2010


The head of Peru’s Council of Ministers stressed Monday the government is not against artisanal mining after protests by wildcat miners, who blocked the country’s main Pan American highway erupted into violence Sunday, killing six people including two bystanders.

The miners were protesting new government regulations imposing strict environmental controls on their operations.

The strike had been called by the Federation of Informal Miners, which oppose emergency decree 012-2010, which mandates they must legally register with the government and reduce the pollution their activities generate. The measures would limit dredging and mercury usage in rivers and ban mining in the Madre de Dios forests, which the miners fear will leave them jobless. Illegal gold mining occurs mainly in the Madre de Dios and Puno regions.

It is estimated that small-scale, independent miners produce 10 to 20% of the gold in Peru. It is believed a minimum of 40,000 persons are illegally mining in the nation. The miners fear the government is planning to put them out of business in order to give mining rights to large mining companies.

The violence erupted in the town of Chala in the southern province of Arequipa after police tried to remove 40 vehicles and 400 protestors who blocked Peru’s main highway Sunday. Peru’s Defense Minister Rafael Ray said the roadblock was impeding the movement of people and goods.

At least 25 were injured and 28 were arrested during the altercation state news agency Andina reported. Among the dead was a taxi driver who was not involved in the protest, but was hit in the head by a bullet near the site. An elderly woman died of a heart attack when she was riding in one of the buses blocked by the protestors.

President Alan Garcia Monday said, “How can we be signing projects to obtain wind-powered energy, which is clean, and allow at the same time the pollution of the Peruvian Amazon?” Environmental Minister Antonio Brack estimated more than 44,000 acres of Amazon forest have disappeared and an additional 998,000 acres are at risk due to illegal mining.

However, the head of the Council of Ministries, Javier Veláquez Quesquén, said Monday the government is willing to gradually formalize informal miners.

Written by naturesong

April 6, 2010 at 09:36

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