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LIMA, PERU—President Ollanta Humala declared a 60-day state of emergency Sunday to quell increasingly violent protests over the country’s biggest investment, a highlands gold mine, by peasants who fear it will damage their water supply.
The emergency restricts civil liberties such as the right to assembly and allows arrests without warrants in four provinces of Cajamarca state that have been paralyzed for 11 days by protests against the $4.8-billion (U.S.) Conga gold-and-copper mining project. U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp. is the project’s majority owner.
Dozens have been injured in clashes between police and protesters, some of whom have vandalized Conga property. The general strike also shuttered schools and snarled transportation as protesters mounted roadblocks.
Humala said in a brief televised address Sunday night that protest leaders had shown no interest “in reaching minimal agreements to permit a return of social peace” after a day of talks in Cajamarca with Cabinet chief Salmon Lerner, who had been accompanied by military and police chiefs and was guarded by hundreds of heavily armed police.
Humala said the government “has exhausted all paths to establish dialogue as a point of departure to resolve the conflict democratically” and blamed “the intransigence of a sector of local and regional leaders.”
He said the emergency was taking effect at midnight Sunday.
Cajamarca state’s governor, Gregorio Santos, who has been leading the protests, called Humala’s announcement an unnecessary provocation.
He said protest leaders had been planning to end the strike and had asked government officials for 12 hours to consult with protesters.
“I think what’s being sought is for this to end in a bloodbath,” Santos told The Associated Press by telephone. Police have already used tear gas and bullets against protesters.
“We will continue with our fight,” Santos added, without specifying how.
Local elected officials have led protests against Conga, an extension of the nearby Yanacocha mine, for more than a month.
They say they fear it will taint and diminish water supplies affecting thousands and have demanded a new study of the environmental impact of the mine, which was to begin production in 2015.
Peruvian government officials have expressed no intention of redoing Conga’s environmental impact study, which was approved by the Ministry of Mining in October 2010.
Those plans call for displacing four lakes more than two miles high and replacing them with reservoirs. Local residents say they fear that could affect an important acquifer on which thousands depend.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1097165–peru-declares-emergency-after-talks-fail-on-ending-anti-mining-protest