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  • Protest against Newmont Mining Corporation

    Protest against Newmont Mining Corporation's Conga project in the Cajamarca region on June 17, 2013 | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 January 2017

Environmental contamination caused by extractive industries continues to be the main cause of social conflict in the country.

Indigenous and campesino communities in Peru are currently engaged in fighting 156 mining giants, which they claim are threatening their natural resources and land, according to a recently published report by the country's ombudsman.

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Peru's Minera Antamina has caused the most problems, with conflict in seven of its mining projects across the country, followed by Hudbay Peru with five, Barrick Misquichilca — a subsidiary of Canada-based Barrick Gold Corporation — with four, and Southern Peru also with four.

The communities facing the most mining projects and land-related conflicts are located in the region of Apurimac, which currently faces 25 such conflicts. Apurimac is followed by Ancash, which faces 23 land-related conflicts, and Cusco, which is faced with 92. In total, 102 protests with a "social-environmental" focus were recorded across the country, but only 81 projects are currently being negotiated.

Out of the 156 active conflicts recorded by authorities in November, including 57 considered “latent,” over three-quarters are related to social and environmental issues, according to the report. Mining projects are contested because they are seen as threatening natural resources and the future health and survival of rural communities living close by.

Other conflicts affecting the country are mostly related to local or national governance or are territorial in nature, according to the report.

At least three people have died and dozens were injured in early November during a confrontation with police, as a result of a failed dialogue with Consorcio Minero Horizonte over the Bernabe project in the province of Pataz.

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The report classifies the highly contested project Las Bambas, run by the transnational Chinese corporation MMG, as “under observation — may become a new social conflict.”

On the Tia Maria project, run by Southern Peru in the Arequipa province, the ombudsman notes an “absence of dialogue.”

The mining industry remains one of the primary sources of foreign trade in Peru, although investment in the sector has fallen with the drop in international commodity prices. Peru is the second-largest exporter of copper in the world, with 70 percent of exports in raw form and 30 percent as purified metal.

But environmental contamination caused by extractive industries continues to be the main cause of social conflict in the country, sometimes exploding into all-out violence. During the government of departing President Ollanta Humala, which started in 2011, 50 people died and 750 were injured in clashes between environmental demonstrators and government authorities.

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