On Thursday, 1,000 activists arrived in Lima to demand the end of millions of mining operations that they claim are contaminating water and causing pollution. Their nine-day protest began last week in Peru’s northern region of Cajamarca but has now moved to Lima after a journey by bus and foot. Marco Arana, one of the leaders of the protest, said “we are demanding that all mining activities at the source of water basins be prohibited.”
Arana, leader of the left-wing movement Tierra y Libertad and who supported Humala during his electoral campaign, said that “we have to make a decision to choose between mining and water.”
Peru has 200 outstanding social conflicts, the majority of which relate to fears of environmental damage caused by the country’s mining industry–estimated to represent $50 million in investment in coming years. The anti-mining movement has united leaders from disparate mining regions who have distanced themselves from President Ollanta Humala in their “war for water.” Some protests have achieved their goals: in November protesters were able to paralyze the project in the Conga mine under the administration of Newmont, a U.S.-based company.
Analysts fear the eruption of violent protests, which could disrupt up to 60 percent of Peru’s mining exports. Protest leaders will meet members of Congress today to present a legislative initiative that seeks to suspend mining activity.