As demonstrators took the streets they denounced the presence of some 400 agents of the National Police of Peru, who used excessive violence to repress the protests.
Workers from the agricultural sector along with different sectors of civil society were met with police repression Monday after calling on an indefinite strike in Peruvian southeastern city of Puno to protest the government's approval to initiate construction of the major open-pit mining project known as ‘Tia Maria,’ granted to United States mining corporation, Southern Copper.
Sectors of Peruvian society including unions joined local farmers in peaceful protests, setting up roadblocks in the Tambo valley in the central region of Arequipa. Their aim is to express their disagreement and rejection of the project. On July 15, other municipalities in the valley also called on an indefinite strike.
However, as soon as demonstrators took the streets they denounced the presence of some 400 agents of the National Police of Peru, who used excessive violence to repress the demonstration.
Local media also reported that police officers, who had already tried to criminalize the right to protest by implementing an exaggerated security system all around the Tambo Valley, arrested various protesters and used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.
The governor of the province, Elmer Caceres, urged the country's president, Martin Vizcarra, to stop the repression against the nonviolent demonstration.
"I ask President Martin Vizcarra to stop provoking the population of the Tambo Valley through the use of police brutality,” said Caceres, adding “Mr. President, do not make the same mistake as other past governments, as what happened in 2011 and 2015 when eight innocent people died."
Caceres has repeatedly addressed the President asking him to rectify his actions and to withdraw the permission from Southern Copper.
The copper mining project has been categorically rejected by farmers of the central region of Tambo and by the mayors of the Islay province in the south of the country, amid fears for the consequences that open-pit mining will have on agriculture and more generally on the environment and freshwater sources.
The release of chemical substances such as cyanide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide, can cause great changes in the environment of the region destroying forests and polluting water key to agriculture in the region. Sound pollution resulting from mining operations can also affect the population and wildlife.
According to energy sector experts, the construction license had to be approved this month before the company’s environmental permit expires. If it does the company would have to ask for another permit, restarting the complicated and long approval process, meaning another waiting period of several months until the government reviews a new environmental impact study.
The corporation has spent years waiting for the construction license that past governments refused to give after the deadly protests that first derailed the project eight years ago. The mine is expected to produce 120,000 tons of high-grade copper per year for 18 years, with an investment of US$ 1.4 billion.