Peru: police arrest villagers following anti-mining protest

National Police troops in the service of the Antamina company detained 16 local campesinos from San Marcos municipality, Huari province, in Peru's central Andean region of Áncash, in the pre-dawn hours of May 10. Eight were taken off a combi microbus, and eight detained at their homes in the hamlet of San Pedro de Pichiu by elite troops of the Special Operations Directorate (DINOES). Witnesses said they were beaten as they were detained, and then taken to a police post at Yanacancha, on land within the Antamina mining camp, where the are still being held. Pablo Salazar Solís, San Marcos municipal agent for the district, was able to visit the detainees, and told the National Confederation of Communities Affected by Mining (CONACAMI) that they had been tortured during interrogations and forced to falsely confess that they had taken part in a recent protest against the company. San Pedro de Pichiu residents this week held a 24-hour civil strike (paro), blocking roads to protest the contamination of local waters in an Antamina petrol spill. In the May 4 truck accident, a tanker full of petrol was spilled into Laguna Huatucocha, a highland lake in the watershed of the Río Mosta, a tributary of the Marañón, the central river of Peru's Andes.

Two campesinos from the caserio (hamlet) of Chipta were similarly arrested at their homes on May 9. Lawyers for San Marcos municipality have filed a habeas corpus petition with local judicial authorities, and are preparing to bring a complaint before the national Office of Magesterial Control (OCMA). (Servindi, May 11; CONACAMI, May 10)

The arrests have won no English-language coverage, but Bloomberg reported May 8 that Peru's gold output climbed for a fourth month in March on gains at Newmont Mining's Yanacocha mine (Cajamarca region). Gold production rose 5.1% to 13,758 kilograms from a year earlier, the Energy & Mines Ministry said in an e- mailed statement, with copper output also up. Gold output climbed after Yanacocha, Latin America's largest gold mine, increased production by 27%. Copper producers Antamina and Southern Copper Corp boosted output by 25 and 15%, respectively. Peru is the world’s third-largest copper and zinc producer and sixth in gold.