Peruvian Government Urged to Halt Violence against Citizens Opposed to Mining Projects

Washington, DC — International relief and development organization Oxfam America joined 90 environmental and human rights organizations in sending a letter to the Peruvian Embassy in Washington calling on the Peruvian government to end escalating human rights abuses related to mining and energy projects.

The letter follows the alarming surge in repression of free speech, police brutality and human rights violations in Cajamarca, Peru, where protests against Newmont’s $4.8 billion Minas Conga gold mining project intensified last week, leaving five people dead due to the government’s violent response. Community members in Cajamarca are concerned that the project will harm the environment by draining mountain lakes and replacing them with man-made reservoirs, and generating massive amounts of toxic waste.

“We are deeply concerned about the latest mining-related violence in Peru,” said Keith Slack, global program manager of Oxfam America’s oil, gas and mining program. “Urgent action is needed now to prevent the situation in Cajamarca from deteriorating further.”

The groups, which include Oxfam America, Amazon Watch, Earthworks, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, MiningWatch Canada, Rainforest Action Network and the United Steelworkers, raise concerns about the Peruvian government’s violently suppressing community opposition to extractive projects. They also call on Newmont, whose gold mine project has been the principal catalyst for the conflict, to make a public declaration against the Peruvian Government’s violent repression of civil liberties and harassment of mining protestors. The letter continues by calling on Newmont to not proceed with the project without obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of affected communities.

“We are dismayed that the Peruvian Government is providing cover for extractive projects by suppressing community opposition through violent means,” stated the letter. “Our organizations support communities’ rights to peaceful and non-violent protest.”

In the last year, conflicts relating to mining have risen sharply in Peru, now numbering over 240. Many of these conflicts can be prevented by companies first engaging in dialogue with affected communities and receiving community consent for projects.