LIMA – Clashes between police and farmers opposed to mining concessions left at least 80 people injured, two of them seriously, in the southern Peruvian region of Apurimac, local media reported.
The fighting erupted after a breakdown in talks Thursday between protesters and a government commission headed by Agriculture Minister Miguel Caillaux that had traveled to the city of Andahuaylas.
Fifteen police were among the injured, according to the official Andina news agency, which reported that more police reinforcements had been deployed to that highland city, located in the Apurimac region.
The Health Ministry also will send a team of doctors to support local medical personnel in Andahuaylas.
Local media had said the clashes had left as many as three dead, but Apurimac police commander Col. Efrain Barragan vehemently denied the report.
“That information is absolutely false. There are currently six injured among the protesters and 16 among the police,” Barragan told America Television.
The police chief said power has already been restored in Andahuaylas, which had suffered a blackout early Thursday night, and that authorities have cut off access to that urban area.
“The zone is under police control. We’re patrolling the city to prevent acts of vandalism, but the situation is under control. There are no new (disturbances) to report,” he said late Thursday.
After the government commission left the city without an agreement, the farmers began a violent protest that police quelled with tear gas and shots fired in the air.
But the violent protests continued Thursday night, when Andahuaylas city was left in the dark due to the power outage and a mob set fire to some regional government offices.
The Agriculture Ministry said in a statement that talks between farmers and the authorities lasted four hours and that Caillaux reiterated the government’s commitment to combating illegal mining.
According to the minister, local residents are completely opposed to all mining activity because they are concerned about some mining concessions that he said have not yet been awarded.
He added that some of the concerns of the farmers – who have suffered the consequences of illegal mining, including polluted rivers and damaged crops – were the result of misinformation.
The government commission was composed of Caillaux, Energy and Mines Minister Carlos Herrera and Deputy Environmental Management Minister Jose de Echave.
Protesting farmers in Andahuaylas and Chincheros want those provinces declared mining-free zones and are demanding the cancellation of projects that are being managed by the Ares and Apurimac Ferrum companies and are currently in the exploration phase.
Apurimac Gov. Elias Segovia told Efe Thursday that greater coordination is needed between the national and local governments to resolve the complaints against the mining companies.
He also said more than 500 mining concessions have been awarded in that region and that most are in the exploration phase. EFE