At least 3 killed in Peru anti-mine clash
LIMA, Peru (AP) -- Protesters opposed to Peru's biggest mining project attacked a provincial town... More
- LIMA, Peru (AP) -- Protesters opposed to Peru's biggest mining project attacked a provincial town hall and battled police and soldiers Tuesday in violence that claimed three lives and injured at least 21, authorities said.
Police guarding the municipal building in Celendin, a town in the northern state of Cajamarca, fought back when the protesters attacked and later got help from soldiers, officials said. Peru's Interior Ministry said gunshots were fired by protesters, but did not say whether police or troops used their weapons.
Three men were killed during the fight, at least two of them by gunshots to the head, Reynaldo Nunez, Cajamarca's health director, told The Associated Press by phone. Most of the injured had received blows, he said.
Nunez said he did not know whether police or soldiers were among the injured. The Interior Ministry's statement said two police officers were wounded by bullets fired by protesters.
Celendin is a stronghold of opposition to the proposed $4.8 billion Conga gold mine, which many locals fear will hurt their water supplies. The mine's majority owner is Newmont Mining Co., a U.S. company based in the state of Colorado.
Backed by Cajamarca's regional president, protesters have refused to accept a compromise proposed by President Ollanta Humala that his government says will protect water supplies. The compromise includes the construction of four reservoirs to replace reservoirs that are to be destroyed by the project.
Celendin's town manager, Moises Silva, told the AP that violence broke out when construction workers arrived at the town hall and began kicking its main door, prompting police officers to fire tear gas.
"After that, a fierce battle began between the protesters and police, and also soldiers who intervened in support of the police," he said. "You could hear gunshots."
The violence came just days after Yanacocha, the company in charge of Conga, began work on the new reservoirs.
The anti-mining protesters accuse Humala, who was elected one year ago, of betraying a campaign promise he made in Cajamarca that access to clean water would come before mining.
His government says responsible mining can co-exist with environmental protection and provides important revenues that can help lift rural Peruvians from poverty.
Mining accounts for more than 60 percent of Peru's export earnings and has been the engine of a decade-long economic boom.