In early March an estimated 5000 people from towns near the Yanacocha mine blockaded one of the main roads leading to the mine. They were protesting the death of fish in trout farm ponds which are fed by a river contaminated by mine run-off.
The blockade was supported by several mayors of the towns, who lent vehicles and trucks to help block the road. At the behest of Yanacocha, the Peruvian military sent helicopters to transport staff to the mine, which is operated by US-based Newmont Mining Corporation with backing from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation. The stand-off ended when Yanacocha agreed to compensate the local people for the fish kill; negotiations are currently ongoing between the mine and local citizens.
Also in March, local leaders and civil society organisations led a general strike to protest Yanacocha’s plans to expand the mine into an area which local people have declared an “untouchable zone”. They are demanding to know whether the IFC supports the expansion plans.
The Federation of Rondas Campesinas of Northern Peru have also just filed a complaint to the IFC‘s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman on the mine. Their report documents problems with dewatering, water contamination, fish and frog die-off, air pollution, loss of medicinal plants, unjust and illegal land acquisitions, alcoholism, and repression of mining opponents.
The protests in Peru come at a time when the IFC has just appointed a former mining company executive as head of its Environment and Social Development Department. Gavin Murray was Vice President for Sustainability Leadership of Placer Dome, Inc. an international gold mining company. Placer Dome’s operations in the Philippines, the USA and elsewhere have been controversial.