Army Deployed to Matarani Port in Peru Amid Protest Against Mining Project

August 04: Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra authorized Sunday for the army to join the national police forces to “protect” the key mining port of Matarani, a day before an expected new round of protests against Southern Copper’s ‘Tia Maria’ open-pit mining project.  

Vizcarra’s government has declared a state of emergency in the port town, ordering the army to be deployed and “control” any further protests in the province of Islay, where the project is planned. 

The government’s decision comes as the Command for Popular Struggle for the Defense of the Tambo Valley called for a regional strike in Arequipa to start on Aug. 5 under the demand that the mining project, granted to United States mining corporation, is once and for all definitively terminated. 

As the indefinite strike marks 21 days, police have already used repression tactics against protestors. 

Last week, various families from Matarani denounced that police teargassed their homes, affecting children and senior citizens. “We don’t understand why the gassed the homes, many children were taken to a hospital. Police committed an abuse,” a resident told reporters.

The copper mining project is categorically rejected by farmers, labor unions and social organizations of the central region of Tambo and the southern Islay province, amid fears of negative effects on agriculture there, which exports large quantities of its fruits and vegetables. 

Citizens more generally are worried about the environmental damage the mine will create. The release of chemical substances such as cyanide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide can cause great changes in the environment of the region destroying forests and polluting water. 

The Ministry of Energy and Mines notified last week that the country’s Mining Council will decide on Aug. 20, the license revision request submitted by the governor of the Isaly province, Elmer Caceres. While another request has been presented by a defense front for sugarcane workers in the region. 

According to energy sector experts, if the company’s environmental permit expires they would have to ask for another license, restarting a complicated and long approval process, meaning another waiting period of several months, or years, until the government reviews a new environmental impact study.

The corporation has spent years waiting for the construction license that past governments refused to give after the deadly protests that first derailed the project eight years ago. The mine is expected to produce 120,000 tons of high-grade copper per year for 18 years, with an investment of US$ 1.4 billion. 

Peru is the second-largest producer of copper in the world and its mining industry makes up 60 percent of its exports.

Source: Telesur English

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