Peruvian Bishops Call for Prayer and Action as Mining Conflict Turns Deadly

ROME – After at least 14 people were killed in a mining conflict in the Andean region of Arequipa, the bishops of Peru assured the victims of their prayers and urged local authorities to step up their efforts to prevent further violence .

According to local authorities, the confrontation occurred between June 1 and 2 in Arequipa, located about 621 miles from Lima, the capital.

Half of the 14 bodies discovered were found in an area known as Catarata, in Atico, located in the Intigold Mining concession, and the other seven were found in an area called Huanaquita.

Some 31 people were arrested in connection with the incident, with police confiscating firearms, ammunition and body armor.

Initially, authorities believed that the dispute arose between legal and illegal, or “informal” miners, who had to operate within legal regulations. However, authorities have since concluded that the dispute was between minors working for two different companies.

According to local media, the clashes were sparked by a dispute over a gold and copper deposit claimed by the two groups in the Huanaquita region.

Disputes over gold and copper deposits are not new to the region. However, it is believed to be the first instance where deaths have been recorded amid such disagreements.

Authorities said they believed a criminal organization was involved and hired professional staff to carry out an eviction of minors that turned violent.

Under pressure from their failure to act in time to stop the violence, local police say they did not initially realize a violent argument was occurring due to the remote area in which the confrontation took place. occurred.

This type of incident between minors is common in remote areas of Peru, where the presence of state authorities is rare.

In a June 8 statement, the Peruvian Episcopal Conference expressed its “deep closeness and solidarity with the families of the injured and our condolences for those who died.”

“It is concerning,” they said, that the clashes “have not been identified and addressed in time by government agencies and regional authorities.”

“Just as we must not allow the contamination of our biodiversity and the threat to our ‘common home’, also by mining that acts without respect for nature and the law, how much more must we not allow the promotion of all forms of violence, even more so if it threatens human life and dignity,” they said.

The bishops urged Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, the Peruvian congress and other government bodies “to act quickly and effectively to solve this problem in a comprehensive way” so that there is no more loss of life.

“Let us remember that all human life is sacred,” they said.

Mining is one of Peru’s largest industries, with the country containing around 8.7% of the world’s copper reserves, 3.7% of its gold and 22.6% of its silver. Peru currently ranks third in global copper production, second in silver production and sixth in gold production.

Disputes between different companies are not uncommon, as several large companies employing thousands of workers operate in the country.

However, in the vast remote areas of the highlands and the Amazon rainforest, these businesses are often operated by small legal and illegal miners, who operate outside of state control due to the isolated nature of the places where they work. .

In addition to these rural conflicts, big business also faces conflicts.

Currently, production at the Las Bambas copper mine, located in the Andean region of Apurímac and operated by the Chinese company MMG, has been interrupted for 50 days due to attacks on its facilities and personnel amid protests carried out by farmers in the region.

Las Bambas accounts for nearly 15% of Peru’s copper production, and the shutdown of its production affects some 8,000 workers and has resulted in a loss of about $9.5 million in exports per day, according to the National Mining Society.

Pope Francis also spoke of the need for greater ethics in mining and chastised companies that exploit the earth’s resources in disregard of the rights of people who live on the exploited lands.

Addressing participants at a two-day mining conference in 2019, the pope said mining, like all economic activities, “should be at the service of the whole human community,” especially the peoples. indigenous communities living in rural areas.

The mining industry, he said, must ensure that its activities lead “to the integral human development of every person” and “are at the service of the human person and not the other way around”.

“Care for the safety and well-being of those involved in mining operations as well as respect for the fundamental human rights of members of local communities and those who defend their causes are indeed non-negotiable principles,” said declared the pope.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen

Comments are closed.