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NEWS: Puno resists Canadian company threatening Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca as seen from the shore of Puno

Lake Titicaca as seen from the shore of Puno

Al Jazeera reports this morning, “For weeks, a group of about 10,000 protesters blockaded streets (in the city of Puno) in the country’s southeast in an effort to convince Peru’s government to revoke the license already given to (Vancouver-based) Bear Creek Mining Corp, a Canadian company planning to mine silver in the area. …Amid frustration with the protests’ lack of success, some demonstrators began breaking into government buildings on Friday. …Protesters fear that the company will pollute the water (when using toxic cyanide) to separate silver, and an environmental impact statement is under government review.”

Puno is located between the shores of Lake Titicaca and the mountains surrounding the city. There is less than 3 kilometres distance of flat land between the shores and the foothills. The Associated Press notes, “Protesters say they fear the mine will contaminate Lake Titicaca, hurting fishing and farming. Bear Creek’s director, Andrew Swarthout, said the mine would have no impact on South America’s biggest lake, which straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia. He said it isn’t in the same drainage basin as Titicaca. …The mine would use toxic cyanide to separate out the silver in what Swarthout called a common and proven technology.”

In June 2009, Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew wrote about the Senate passing the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement. He highlighted, “Canada’s main development interests in Peru are mining and resource extraction. The Peruvian government passed several decrees to open up the Amazon for business to sweeten the FTAs with the United States and Canada.” An action alert that same month from the Council of Canadians, MiningWatch and Common Frontiers stated, “The Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement gives Canadian resource companies new legal powers to challenge what few Peruvian laws stand in their way, while paying only lip service to labour rights and environmental protection.”

Puno has already been designated a Special Economic Zone (Zona Económica). These zones are typically areas that have weaker environmental and labour laws.

Al Jazeera notes, “Peru government officials said that it would be unconstitutional to meet the protesters’ demand and cancel mineral concessions. Bear Creek Mining Corp says that it already invested $25m in the contested mine, and hopes that it will begin production next year.”