Recent protests in Peru’s northern Cajamarca region over the development of the $5 billion Conga gold mining project have left three people dead and more than twenty wounded.
Despite police and military backlashes, and jeopardizing badly-needed jobs, protests are common in a country where mining is a major economic force.
Peru’s mining history is plagued with environmental wreckage, more than a few examples under the supervision of US mining companies. In 2009, the highland city of La Oroya was listed as one of the world’s ten most polluted places. Over 35,000 people were forced to breathe toxic waste from Missouri-based Doe Run’s smokestacks and drink lead-laced water from its smelting operations. Doe Run pleaded financial insolvency and had to be bailed out by Peruvian banks, despite having posted record profits only a few years earlier.
La Oroya after Doe Run
But the size of Doe Run’s operations pale in comparison to the Conga mine project, a joint venture involving US based Newmont Mining Corp, which will be the largest investment EVER in Peru.
Leading German environmental engineer Reinhard Seifert has called the Conga mine project an ‘environmental disaster’.
Peruvians are not shy to stand up and take to the streets when they see a threat to their environment and way of life—even with the economic and physical risks involved.
They should be commended for this.