Hundreds of Peruvians marched in support of the country's biggest-ever mining project, a day after the government implemented emergency powers to control an anti-mining protest in the South that turned deadly.
The rally in the northern region of Cajamarca in favour of Newmont Mining's 4.8 billion dollars Conga project praised development, a contrast to demonstrations in Cusco against Xstrata's Tintaya mine that left at least four people dead and over fifty injured half of them security forces.
The rallies are a reminder of the politically polarized issue of mining in Peru, where rich city-dwellers have profited from a decade-long commodities boom but 60% of rural Peruvians have been left behind in poverty.
A so-called Cajamarca Collective, led by pro-business locals’ aims to rally support for Conga before other townspeople and local government officials opposed to the project resume demonstrations later this week.
Work has been stalled on Conga since environmental demonstrations started in November. Newmont is currently deciding whether to move forward with the mine after the government and independent auditors said it should take more environmental precautions that will increase costs.
President Ollanta Humala, who has vowed to resolve social conflicts that threaten 50 billion dollars in pledged investments, has said Newmont should keep two of four lakes it planned to destroy intact and build larger reservoirs to increase water supplies.
The violence stemming from anti-mining protests in Cusco, however, threatens Humala's carefully crafted image as a peacemaker who defends private investment while also protecting the rural poor who largely voted for him.
At least 10 people have died in disputes over natural resources since Humala took office in July. Some 174 people died in similar protests during the five-year term of his predecessor Alan Garcia.
Protesters say Xstrata's Tintaya copper mine, which has not seen output affected by the demonstrations, has done little to help the poor province of Espinar and causes pollution. Over 50 people, 30 of them police have been injured in clashes.
Humala on Monday enacted emergency measures to suspend freedom of assembly in Espinar, enabling police to detain protest leader Herbert Huaman on Tuesday.