Peruvian villager killed and four injured in clashes over water with Barrick Gold
Barrick Gold is resuming operations Friday at its Pierina mine in Peru after violent clashes this week between police and nearby villagers left one person dead and four injured.
In an official statement from its Peruvian unit, Barrick, which is the world’s largest gold producer, said its mine operations were suspended Thursday out of mourning for “the unfortunate event”.
Protesters were demanding that the mining company provide water infrastructure to towns near the mine, which sits 4.100 m high in the Andes, when the clash occurred late on Wednesday.
While it was once one of Barrick’s bigger mines, Pierina produced 152,000 ounces of gold in 2011, out of a company-wide total of 7.7 million.
Mining is central to Peru’s economy. The country is a key producer of gold, copper, silver and zinc, but opposition has long existed from locals, who worry about environmental problems and possible contamination of the water supply.
Last Friday, villagers from nearby Mareniyoc began blocking the access road to the Barrick mine, and as of Wednesday it was still blocked. Barrick says other roads are open, so its operations are not impacted.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Barrick says people from the Mareniyoc and San Isidro communities forced open the mine gate and entered the property, which brought a confrontation between national police officers and community members.
One villager was killed and four people were injured including an officer.
“The company wishes to express its sadness for this unfortunate event and its deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased person and to the community,” the statement said, adding Barrick is providing necessary medical care to the injured.
“The situation has been reported to the authorities, who will receive our full support to carry out corresponding investigations.”
Barrick is not alone in facing protests that have hit mines in Peru including those owned by Newmont Mining Corp., Xstrata and Southern Copper Corp.
A reported 19 people have died in clashes over natural resources since President Ollanta Humala took office in July 2011. Peru’s human rights agency says there are hundreds of lingering disputes over water, mining, and oil projects in rural Peru.
In 2006, Pierina was hit by an eerily-similar incident that briefly disrupted operations, following a clash between police and villagers, leaving one dead and several injured. That dispute did not involve Barrick itself, but one of the service companies contracted by Barrick.
Workers were demanding that the service company increase its wages. The violence took place some distance from the mine. Workers did, however, block a road to the mine.