Gold mine causes protests in northern Perú over water

A two-month state of emergency is in effect in northern Perú following violent protests over a gold mine project that critics fear will taint and diminish water supplies.

The emergency declaration restricts certain civil liberties such as the freedom of assembly and allows arrests without warrants in four provinces of Cajamarca state that have seen nearly two weeks of protests against the $4.8-billion Conga gold and copper project. The government took action after negotiations involving officials and protest leaders broke down. President Ollanta Humala has described leaders of the protest as intransigent.

The U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp. is involved with the project, which calls for extracting gold and copper from the area as well as displacing four lakes and replacing them with reservoirs. Local residents fear that contaminated water from the project could ruin area lakes and rivers.

Wednesday, Newmont announced in a statement that it was suspending construction activities at the Conga project for the safety of employees and community members. A Newmont official said the company is closely monitoring the situation and continues to want to participate in a good-faith dialogue with local residents.

But in the statement issued last week, the company said that if it could not continue with Conga, it would change its focus to gold mines in other countries.

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