Deadly clash at Peru protest over Barrick gold mine

published by BBC

One person has been killed and at least four injured in clashes between police and protesters at a gold mine in the northern Ancash region of Peru.

Canadian firm Barrick Gold said it would temporarily suspend production at its Pierina mine following the clash.

The protesters are demanding that the firm provide nearby towns with water.

Pressure group Human Rights Watch has called on Peruvian President Ollanta Humala to stop police from using lethal force against protesters.

At least 19 people have died in disputes over natural resources since President Humala came to office in July 2011, according to figures released by Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch demanded that Mr Humala ban the security forces from using live ammunition at demonstrations and to provide them with other, non-lethal weapons to control crowds.

‘Water wars’

The latest clashes erupted on Wednesday when police tried to clear protesters from a road they had blocked leading to the Pierina gold mine near Huaraz.

The protesters from the nearby community of Mareniyoc blame the mining company for a worsening water shortage and demand the firm supply them with drinking water.

Mine official Gonzalo Quijandria said the company had offered residents water from a purification plant, but that their offer had been rejected.

“The community does not want to use water that comes from the mine, even though it’s treated and certified,” he said.

The protesters told local media they believed the water was contaminated and complained about being ignored by mine officials.

Mr Quijandria said that the issue of water supply was “a problem outside our [the mine’s] control”.

According to Peru’s human rights agency, there are more than 200 disputes over natural resources in Peru, many of them involving access to water and allegations of pollution by mining companies.

The BBC’s Mattia Cabitza in Lima says mining is a huge revenue earner for Peru, but that ongoing social and environmental conflicts are threatening to delay billions of dollars of investment.