In the years that followed the mercury spill in Choropampa, Newmont was looking for other attractive mining sites elsewhere in their huge concession. They knew that within ten or fifteen years, the Yanacocha mine would be exhausted of its gold-bearing ore. However, despite the environmental damage they had caused and despite the opposition from residents of the region, the company’s executives had no intention of packing up and leaving Cajamarca. Since it had become fully operational in 1997 [check this date], Yanacocha had proved immensely profitable to Newmont and it was expected to remain so for years to come, but profitability is never enough for a large corporation. It is necessary not only to be profitable but to be as profitable as possible. If a corporation were to allow any considerations other than financial ones to affect its shareholders would become angry and the company’s fortunes would falter. That at least is the theory.

Cerro Quilish

Cerro Quilish is a symmetrically-shaped, gently sloping hill within sight of Cajamarca city. It has been considered a sacred place since Inca times. The hill is at the top of a watershed that supplies Cajamarca, so if its soil becomes polluted nearly half a million people will be affected. And on the land that lies between Cerro Quilish and the city there are many thriving farms. Much of what they produce finds its way to Lima and other large cities, so any damage to this agricultural land is potentially dangerous to the whole country. In 2000 — at a time when there was already a good deal of concern about the environmental effects of the Yanacocha mine just four miles away — the municipal government passed a law declaring Cerro Quilish a “natural reserve.”

In 2002, Newmont — already worried about where it was going to get its gold once Yanacocha was exhausted — began doing some exploratory work on Cerro Quillish and by 2004, the company had come to the conclusion that there were approximately 3.7 million ounces of gold lying beneath the hill’s surface. There had been occasional protests against their preliminary exploration and this had slowed things down, but nevertheless, by 2004, the company had definitely decided that Cerro Quilish was a good place for a new mine. So they stepped up their exploratory operations and installed some new, very visible drilling equipment. They realized that their plans conflicted with the municipal law of 2000; they solved this problem by taking the matter to a federal court. The court decided that Newmont could ignore the law because they had acquired their concession several years before the reserve was declared, and an “order” was issued which officially gave Newmont the right to go ahead with a new mine.(118, 228)

It was apparently this government order, —Resolution 361-2004— which, more than anything else, set off the September protests. On September 2, thousands of campesinos blocked the roads leading to the main Yanacocha mine and also to Cerro Quilish, four miles away. Then they moved onto Cerro Quilish itself. There, they clashed with a large contingent of police. At one point a helicopter was used to drop tear gas bombs on the protesters. There were injuries on both sides, and many were arrested, including women and children.

The demands of the protesters were clear and simple: they wanted Newmont’s machinery removed from Cerro Quilish; they wanted Resolution MEM #361 to be rescinded; they wanted all charges against protesters to be dropped; and they wanted Newmont to pay the medical expenses of all those who had been injured.

After the fighting of the first day, things calmed down somewhat. The protesters blocked the road that runs between Cajamarca [¿ check] and Bambamarca, and there were more clashes with the police and more arrests. (The Yanacocha mine was able to continue operating during the strike, but only by carrying workers back and forth on helicopters.(24)) Markets and business establishments in Cajamarca were closed. Then, on the third day, September 4, the police and the protesters agreed to suspend hostilities. The protesters who had been arrested in the battles with the police were released.

On the fourth day, while the road blockades continued, university students joined the protests, and gathered in the central square of Cajamarca. Representatives of various Cajamarcan institutions spoke out publicly against Newmont’s plans to mine on Cerro Quilish. Under presssure from the campesinos the regional government agreed to convene a high-level commission to resolve the dispute. The campesinos selected Marco Arana as their representative. On the morning of the fifth day, there was a huge rally of campesinos in Cajamarca. In the afternoon the meeting was held. It was attended by the regional president but although the campesinos had asked that representatives of the federal Ministry of Energy and Mines attend, they did not do so. At the end of the meeting, the participants signed a compromise agreement: the regional government agreed to accept and support a formal application from the campesinos to the government of Peru’ asking that Resolution 361-2004 be withdrawn. The campesinos agreed, for their part, to give the federal government twenty-four hours to nullify the resolution.

On the sixth day of the protest, September 8, there were large marches in Cajamarca in support of the campesinos. There were a few isolated clashes between the students and the police. Later in the day there was a rally in the central square, atteanded by more than 15,000 people. The federal government did not withdraw Resolution 361-2004 by the deadline that had been given them but, apparently, once they had the clear support of the regional government and of the mass of the urban population the campesinos were willing to wait — and to lift the blockade and go back to work.(¿) But their patience seems to have run out by September 15, however, because on that date another region-wide strike was called.(24) On September 16, the Peruvian government announced that Resolution 361-2004 had been nullified.

[There is a short slide show, with subtitles in Spanish, about the protests against Newmont’s attempts to mine on Cerro Quilish. here.]


As a detailed map, contained in a report published in 2007 shows, Newmont’s operations in the Cajamarca region cover an area of approximately seventy-five square kilometers. These are concentrated in the southeastern portion of the company’s 1725 square kilometer concession area. The map shows six separate pits interspersed with leach pads, waste dumps and “ process facilities.” (The leach pads and the waste dumps take up considerably more space than the pits themselves.) The pits are all named: on the southwwestern edge of the area is the Cerro Negro pit; in the center are La Quinua and Yanacocha, both much larger than any of the others; to the south is the San José pit and to the northeast Maqui Maqui; on the southeastern edge of the area is the Carachugo pit. (80, 20, 21, 22)

Newmont mining believes that it can mine profitably in Cajamarca until approximately 2050, but to do so it has to be able to more or less wherever it chooses within its concession area.In 2006, faced with much diminished production from its existing pits, and frustrated by its attempt, in 2004, to start digging a new pit on Cerro Quilish, Newmont announced another expansion plan — Carachugo II. This project was to involve the digging of a new pit adjacent to the original Carachugo pit and also the construction of a dyke and storage area. (240)

The town of Combayo is located about; around nine kilometers to the southeast of the Carachugo pit of the Yanacocha mine. According to an article published by Inter Press Service, (IPS) Combayo was founded in 1988. The surrounding area was formerly part of one of the largest haciendas in northern Peru, the Hacienda Combayo. For more than 150 years the Haciendo Combayo had been owned by the Santolalla family. The ranch was broken up during the land reforms of the 1970s when the government expropriated some of the property of wealthy landowners and distributed it to campesinos. Eloy Santolalla who owned the estate from 1897 until his death in 1932 was a mining engineer and during his time the most important commercial activity on the hacienda was mining. He also built and operated a foundry on his property. After Eloy Santolalla’s death his wife continued to manage the farm through an agent until 1947. In 1959 the Santolalla family sold most of the hacienda including the mining operation and the foundry. They retained only the most valuable 863 hectares which they continued to operate as a dairy farm.

By this time pressures were mounting to bring an end to the feudal system that had prevailed in rural Peru since colonial times. Under this feudal system a small landowning class systematically exploited a large class of peasants who were allowed to farm and raise animals on small parcels of land in return for providing free labor for the hacienda. Besides the right to use the land — “usufruct” as it is called — The peasants were almost never paid anything for their work, but instead were expected to give the landowners regular presents of animals or grain. They were often prevented from leaving the hacienda because they were in debt to the landowner and, even if they were not in debt, if they left without permission they risked finding that their animals and possessions had been taken when they returned. [For a more detailed description of this feudal system, see Household and Class Relations: Peasants and Landlords in Northern Peru, Carmen Diana Deere, University of California Press, 1990.]

The culmination of these pressures was the passage, in 1964, of the Agrarian Reform Law by the government of Fernando Belaunde. By 1966 the Hacienda Combayo had officially fallen under the jurisdiction of this law and even the core of the estate which had been kept by the Santolalla family had begun to be subdivided by government order. In 1969 the Santolallas sold what remained of their land to Gonzalo Pajares who planned to operate it as a simple dairy farm.

The land reform legislation was not, it seems, ever applied in a completely rigorous way. Nevertheless it did lead to the slow disappearance of the feudal system of land tenure. Some of the land was sold to individual former peasants — “campesinos as they became”— who could afford it; some was handed over to various campesino groups for their collective use. One result of these profound changes in social structure was the coming into existence of towns like Combayo.

In Spanish language sources, Combayo is sometimes referred to as the “Centro Poblado de Combayo.” The term “centro poblado” has official significance in Peru. It refers to a village or settlement that has been given special legal status by the government. All that is necessary to acquire the status of a centro poblado is the submission of a document containing the signatures of 1000 residents. Once a village has this status it can request services from the government and make official complaints to it.

The IPS article says that Combayo was “founded” in 1988. It also states that it is located on land that was formerly part of the Hacienda Combayo. Those statements, in combination with the fact that Combayo is a “centro poblado” seem to indicate that the town was brought into existence in order to provide a more urban base for the former peasant population of the hacienda. The article also mentions the foundry which the mine’s former owner, Eloy Santolalla maintained on the hacienda and the ore that that he “brought in” from a “nearby mine.” It does not mention what is made clear in Carmen Deere’s book: that Eloy Santolalla died in 1932, seventy-four years before the IPS article was written, or that, in those days, the ore that was smelted in his foundry would have come from a mine located on the hacienda itself. (250) By leaving out these important details and casually mentioning the mine in the context of a discussion of much later events, the IPS article creates the impression that the mining activity continued long after Eloy Santolalla’s death. And this would seem to be possible: Carmen Deere says nothing about what was actually being done on the estate after it passed into the hands of Eloy Santolalla’s wife and then, after 1947, into the hands of his heirs.

It would not be surprising either to discover that Eloy Santolalla’s mine actually was the Carachugo pit. In a book published in 1888, Albert Guillaume wrote:

almost on the summit of the Cordilleras, between Cajamarca and Yanacancha, there are...some mines which were worked by the ancient indians, in the interior of which various stone implements have been found, which were used in working the auriferous ore. These mines, now abandoned, are known as the Carachugo...The surface mines are very large but badly worked (233, p 272)

Since these mines, though abandoned, were still well-known in the late nineteenth century — when Eloy Santolalla would have been a young man it seems quite possible that, since he knew of their existence and since he happened to be the heir to the property on which they were located, he decided to study metallurgy and become a mining engineer in the hope that he could turn these “ancient ruins” into a profitable modern business.

In any case, in light of the presence of the mines and the foundry, it seems safe to assume that most of the residents in Combayo, when it was founded in 1988, knew of the Carachugo pit — and knew and knew also that it was only one of a number of old mines in the neighbourhood. Some of them must have worked in the mines or in the foundry before the estate was broken up. The residents of the new centro poblado must also have been confident that the mines did not pose a threat to the simple, “subsistence” agriculture that was supporting and would continue to support their community. A quick look at this Google earth image of Combayo, from 20? shows the town surrounded by well-tended green fields. [The coordinates of Combayo are -7.031341 -78.413766. The image dates from June 14, 2013.]. And as a photo taken just six kilometers from Combayo in the valley of the Rio Pedregal shows, the campesinos know how to exploit even very small streams to good effect. [The coordinates of the photo’s location are -7.025563 -78.359866]

It seems probable that when Newmont began to mine the Carachugo pit in 1994 (¿ check the date!) the residents of Combayo and the many campesinos in the surrounding countryside welcomed the development: because they lived so close to the mine and because, as seems likely, some of them were experienced miners or foundry workers. They must have expected that with Newmont’s arrival in Cajamarca their lives would improve. There would be jobs for a few at least and connected money-making opportunities for many others. And they would have no reason not to believe the promises that, apart from the jobs and the economic “spin off,” spectacular overall “development”would be brought to their region by the international mining industry — roads, schools, hospitals, hydro-electric power grids, better housing and sanitation. They could not have known that international mining companies and the governments that smooth their way always make such promises to local residents — and broadcast them to the rest of the world, but that real development seldom if ever materializes.

Successful mining companies have learned from long experience the importance of avoiding conflict with the local population. This is important to them because such conflicts — which, for example, can cause roads to be blocked and equipment to be damaged — cost money and reduce their profits. Like all large corporations mining companies, however profitable, must always be concerned, first and foremost with becoming even more profitable; so they have no choice but to keep the local population on their side by making promises and, of course, to some extent actually acting on them. They do this in the hope of obtaining what they call a “social license” — a commitment on the part of the community to allow them to operate without interference. But they will never act on these blandishments more energetically or conscientiously than is absolutely necessary; doing so would be an unnecessary cost and an unjustifiable reduction of profits.

A good indication of the important role of the idea of social license in the multi-national mining corporations and the governments and international agencies that support them them is to be found in a document published by the South African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN). As is pointed out in this document — and in many other places — five percent of Yanacocha is owned by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the “private sector lending arm” of the World Bank Group. According to this document, the Yanacocha operation is

an important test of the IFC’s assertion that it can help ensure that the mining projects: it finances deliver sustainable and equitable benefits to their host communities.

According to the same document in the beginning Yanacocha believed that the entire concession area held only modest reserves of gold which would take only five or six years to exhaust. However after “a series of extraordinarily rich discoveries,” the company realized that it “could continue to profitably mine the concession for the next thirty-five to fifty years.” At the time the document was published, in 2005 (? check date) the mine had produced more than 19 million ounces of gold and had more than 30 million ounces in reserves. The document goes on to state that

Yanacocha has also been a significant cource of public revenue. In 2003, Minera Yanacocha paid more than $140 million in taxes, half of which was earmarked to be distributed to the local government under Peru’s mining law.

However, despite Yanacocha’s great wealth, despite the fact that according to the original concession agreement, they were obliged to hand over a sizable amount of money to the Peruvian state, and despite the fact that the Peruvian government was obliged to spend half of what it received to the local governments of Cajamarca region, the people living closest to the mine were still terribly poor in 2006. According to the IPS article. (247)

In the region of Cajamarca, nearly 75% of the population is poor. Combayo, a town of 5,000 is no exception. There is no electricity here, and just one health clinic open from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to serve the entire community. Adobe houses line the unpaved streets. (22)

The government of Cajamarca region had, at that point, not even used some of seventy-five million dollars it had received from Yanacocha for local development on even the most basic amenity of a decent road to the nearest city. The distance from Cajamarca to Combayo, in a straight line, is only twenty kilometers, but according to the author of the IPS article the trip takes two hours “along a narrow, bumpy dusty track.”

But despite the continued poverty and isolation in the face of such great wealth and power, there would probably have been no clashes between the residents of Combayo and the Peruvian national police if, in addition to the neglect, there had not been ever-increasing environmental damage — over the fourteen years since the opening of the mine. According to the IPS article, farmers in the Combayo region were drinking the water from rivers and streams because mining activity had caused their wells to run dry. The article quotes a resident of the Combayo region, Maria Santos, as shouting out at a emergency meeting that the water from those rivers and streams “is barely good enough for horses and cows!” And there is also a quote from another resident, Reina Llanos, who says that the flow of water in the streams has also diminished and that the water is“murky in the morning and after noon it starts to clear up.” And she added that she believes this to be the cause of a fifty percent drop in milk production.”

Lest the words of biased local people be taken lightly, it is worth looking at this photo.) It was taken just a few hundred yards to the east of the edge of the San José pit and about one and a half kilometers to the southwest of the Carachugo pit. (The exact coordinates are: -7 00 33.24 -78 29 56.94) (There is an even more spectacular photo of soil and water contamination attached to Google Earth which was taken adjacent to the Maqui Maqui pit at the northeast corner of the Yanacocha operation. Its coordinates are -6 57 04.36 -78 28 47.10)

Perhaps even more convincing than personal testimonies or photographs posted on Google Earth are statements from the Ombudsman of the IFC, one of the owners of Yanacocha. According to the IPS article, the Ombudsman’s report stated that “the rivers that supply Combayo with water [were] found to have concentrations of aluminum, arsenic and lead that exceeded international guidelines for livestock. (And in another study mentioned in the article an independent American firm Stratus Consulting, done in 2003 when planning of Carachugo II was already underway, said that water flow in the Chaquicocha River and its tributaries “could be reduced by 50 percent as a result of the expansion of the Charachugo pit.”

The environment manager of Yanacocha at the time, Luis Campos did make at least a partial reply to the allegations of the Ombudsman in an interview with IPS. He said that that the finding of arsenic was “an isolated incident” and that “There is no record of a permanent presence of the metal because we have taken the necessary precautions.” In the same interview Luis Campos admitted that water supplies are “interrupted” by mining activity but insisted that “the company takes the necessary measures to return treated water to the rivers.”

Against this background of serious and well-documented environmental damage and angry reaction from the local population, it is not surprising that as Yanacocha was preparing to start work on its expansion of the Carachugo pit, “Carachugo II,” that the residents of Combayo staged a protest on the edge of the Yanacocha property. The protest began on August 2, 2006, near the source of the Chaquicocha River. The protesters clashed with police who were guarding the mine, and one of the protesters, Isidro Llanos was shot and killed. The protests continued. The protesters main demands were that Yanacocha take measures to protect the local water supply; that “social investment programs” be undertaken; and that an inquiry be held into the exact causes of the death of Isidro Llanos. The protesters blocked roads leading to the mine and maintained the were blocked for six days. During this period, the mine had to be briefly shut down because it had become impossible for workers to get in and out. (Yanacocha complained that the shutdown cost them $1.8 million per day, and cost the Peruvian state $615,000 per day in lost taxes.) On August 26, Yanacocha announced that it would not go ahead with the Carachugo expansion.

In the negotiations which brought an end to the dispute, Marco Arana acted as mediator. Despite bringing an end to the open hostilities, in the short term at least, he remained pessimistic about the long term. He was quoted as saying: “The conflict has not ended and never will end if the problem continues to be dealt with in a superficial manner.”

There is at least some evidence that Marco Arana’s pessimism was well founded. Less than two weeks after the agreement was reached, in an article in La Reupublica, the mayor of Combayo, Luciano Llanos, was expressing doubts about whether or not the agreement had really given the people of Combayo what they wanted. He said that, in his opinion, it left open the possibility that the expansion of Carachugo II would at some point be “reinitiated.” And he emphatically added that this was something that his community would not accept under any conditions whatever. He said that if Yanacocha started this work again, it would immediately be stopped by another blockade of the road.(244)

Whether or not the agreement really did bring an end to Carachugo II, it seems not to have brought an end to environmental damage. As recently as May 20, 2011, La Republica reported that tests had shown the water being drunk by the families of Cushurubamba, close to Combay (¿ check this) were drinking water contaminated by aluminum, iron, and copper.(243)

Land grabbing by Yanacocha also seem to have continued after 2006. In March 2007 La Republica reported that forty-one families in the Combayo region were threatening to reoccupy land that Yanacocha had sold to them as long before as 1992. In those days Yanacocha had bought land from residents for as little as US $30 per hectare, taking advantage of the fact that the campesinos did not know its real value. One was quoted as saying, “We want to talk, to reach an agreement. We would agree to accept a fair price or, otherwise to be paid in land, perhaps two acres for each one that we sold. This group of campesinos went so far as to send a delegation to Lima, accompanied by Marco Arana. But even pressing their demands in this way had had no effect and, according to their spokesperson, they were exhausted. At the time the article appeared they were threatening that if their demands were not met within fifteen days they would return to “their land.”

the anti-Conga protests

the lead up to the killings

During the years that followed the clash in Combayo, the majority of residents of the Cajamarca region remained hostile toward Newmont and suspicious of the company’s future intentions. There were no more confrontations, though. For the moment Newmont was willing to set its plans for expansion aside. By 2010, however, it had become clear that Yanacocha was approaching the end of its life and the company announced its intention to build a gold and copper mine at another site within the concession area.(44) This mine, the Conga, was to be the largest mining project in the history of Peru.

Shortly after construction work started, in the autumn of 2011, serious protests began. On November 6th, for example, protesters who were attempting to enter the concession area clashed with police; three police officers were injured and eight protesters were shot with pellets.(115, 101)

As usual the biggest issue was water. And this time it was a particularly urgent concern: Newmont’s plan for the Conga mine involved the destruction of four lagoons. Two of these, Perol and Chailhuagón were to be pumped dry in order to get at the gold beneath them. And two others. Azul and Chica were to be emptied of water and used to hold waste rock.

The protesters had the support, and the encouragement of Gregorio Santos, the President of Cajamarca Region. In November, as construction work was beginning, he demanded that it be halted until a new environmental impact assessment (EIA) be done. Like other opponents of the Conga project, he felt that the original EIA — done under the previous government of Alan García — had been biased in favor of Newmont and had not given an accurate picture of the environmental damage that could be caused by the new mine.

Shortly after making this demand, in cooperation with non-govermental organizations such as GRUFIDES [note] Gregoria Santos intensified the protest by calling a general strike. According to The Economist

The demonstrators blocked roads and shut the airport; public offices and private businesses closed and losses mounted to $10 million a day according to the local chamber of commerce. (44)

For eleven days the strikers blocked all access to Cajamarca. The city was paralyzed and there were shortages of fuel and gasoline. After the strike had been going on for five days, Newmont announced that all work on the Conga project was being temporarily stopped. They said they were doing this in order “to restore social peace.” (131)

On December 5, President Santos further intensified the conflict by issuing Order 036; which declared the whole Conga project, “unviable” because of the effect it would have on the water supplies throughout the Cajamarca region. As soon as President Santos made this announcement, the federal government began legal proceedings to have Order 036 declared invalid by the courts. President Humala claimed that, in issuing it, Gregorio Santos had overstepped his authority.(101)

Then, on December 10, President Humala purged his cabinet. He quickly got rid of several of his ministers who had left-wing views — views of the sort he himself had espoused when he had been running for election earlier in the year. One of the dismissed ministers was Salomón Lerner, who, just before being fired, had met with political leaders in Cajamarca. He was replaced by Oscar Vald&eaute;s, who had been serving as Interior Minister and head of the Peruvian National Police.(101)

Later in the month, President Humala declared a state of emergency. The freedom of assembly and the freedom of movement were suspended — as was the principle of the “inviolability” of Peruvian“ ”s homes. And the Peruvian army was empowered to enforce these temporary laws. On December 16, the strike was called off. (5, 101)

At the same time as he called the state of emergency, President Humala announced the appointment of a panel of “independent international experts” who would review the controversial EIA on the basis of which the previous government had approved the Conga project.

By the New Year, the state of emergency had been lifted and the protests had started up again. On January 2, 2012, between 1000 and 2000 people marched through the streets of Cajamarca city, demanding an end to the Conga project. Estimates of their numbers varied it was certain that there were many fewer than the 5000 who had marched there a month earlier. It seems that these diminished numbers were caused, not by lessened enthusiasm or determination but by fear of police bullets.

In February there was a National March for Water, hundreds of protesters walked all the way from the Conga site to Lima, a distance of more than 600 kilometers. And when they got they got there, they organized an anti-Conga rally which was attended by several thousand people. Later in the same month, on, March 22, World Water Day there was another rally, inside the concession area. It was attended by Bill Weinberg, a reporter for an American magazineThe Progressive. As he tells the story, he was taken to the site of the rally in a truck belonging to the regional government. When they reached the concession area, they were stopped by the national police who had a checkpoint there. But after a long line of other vehicles carrying protesters had lined up behind them, they were finally let through. Inside, at the rally, representatives from many villages spoke, all of them committing themselves to stopping the Conga project. Then, when the rally was over, all the participants marched to the shores of the Azul lagoon, and spoke directly to the water, promising to protect it.(101)

On April 20, the report of the panel of international experts was made public. Their decision was that the original EIA “met all the technical requirements for its approval” However, it recommended that, in future the mine’s impact on water systems be better managed. In particular it recommended that the Azul and Chica lagoons not be used as dumps for mine waste. Newmont quickly made it clear that it was ready to comply with these recommendations and promised to build reservoirs to make up for the water losses that would result from the destruction of the two other lagoons.

The opponents of Conga were not by any means satisfied with this “offer.” On the same day as the announcement was made thousands marched in Cajamarca demanding its rejection. But neither the government nor Newmont relented in the face of this prssure, and the tension was further heightened when, a week later, at the end of April, Gregorio Santos’ Order 036 was declared invalid by Peru’s supreme court.

The campesinos were not by any means satisfied with the offer to preserve two lagoons and build reservoirs and this attempt at conciliation on the part of Newmont and the government seems only to have hardened their opposition to the mine. In May, the protests continued and the police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse campesinos who were blocking the roads. According to some reports, real bullets were used as well.

In June, President Humala announced that Conga would go ahead. He also announced that he was going to meet with sixty-five mayors from the region “to discuss regional development.” (131) No representatives of the regional government were invited to take part in these discussions.

Conga: Celendin and Bambamarca

Celendín is a city with a population of 17,000 thirty-five kilometers to the east of Cajamarca city. It is approximately ten kilometers to the southeast of the Conga site — much closer to the proposed mine and to the original Yanacocha site than is Cajamarca itself. (¿ check!) Because Celendín is so close to the Yanacocha site, quite a large number of the mine’s employees are natives of the city. That is perhaps why, when the mayor of Celendín, Mauro Arreaga, went to the meeting with President Humala in Lima, he gave his support to the Conga project. In any case, even though there may have been more support for mining in Celendín than in other Cajamarca towns, there was clearly a good deal of passionate opposition to it as well.

On July 5, 2012 in Celendín, there was a violent and deadly confrontation between protesters and police. Considering the enormous amount of journalistic coverage of the whole long, struggle, it is surprisingly difficult to find a clear and detailed account of this climactic event. The only source that even attempts to provide an orderly account is the website of an organization called “Celendín Libre.” There, a document entitled “Events occurring in the province of Celendín” gives a brief, plausible “timeline” of the day’s events. Here is a summary:

At 11:00 a.m. a peaceful demonstration demanding a that the Conga project be abandoned began at the “Casa del Maestro.” It was led by a group called the “Interinstitutional Platform of Celendín.” They were accompanied by an organization of high school teachers and by a large number of ordinary citizens of Celendín. (There is no mention in the timeline of the total number of people in the demonstration, but according to another source, there were approximately one thousand.)

According to the timeline, at 12:40 p.m., when the demonstration was passing in front of the headquarters of the government of the province of Celendín, the crowd suddenly attacked the building with “blunt objects.” (In Spanish “Las Instalaciones de la Municipalidad Provincial de Celendín.” (Celendín Province is one of the thirteen provinces in the “Region of Cajamarca.”))

There is no information in the timeline as to what the “blunt instruments” were or as to what damage they did. (According to some media reports (¿ specify!) windows were broken with rocks. According to at least one such report some of the demonstrators actually forced their way into the building, and according to other reports some vehicles were set on fire. None of these reports, however, offers any details about the these incidents and in none is any effort made to describe the various stages of the protest in chronological order.

A couple of details about how the confrontation began are to be found in the “Celendín Libre” website. Unfortunately, though, they don’t help much to clarify matters. The document states that the people who attacked the building were “apparently” “infiltrated persons” — in other words, “agents provocateurs.” It also says that the actions of these persons caused the participants in the originally peaceful demonstration to join the attack and to do so with even more enthusiasm than the crowd they had found attacking the building when they had arrived. (195

The implication is apparently that a fake demonstrations had been staged in front of the government building at just the time the genuine demonstration was expected to pass by in the hope that, if the agents provocateurs broke a few windows, the genuine demonstrators would not be able to resist the temptation to join in.

There seems to be no mention in Peruvian media reports of agents provocateurs — or even of rumors of their presence.— (One US based online source, World War 4 Report, says that “organizers speculated that the attack on government buildings was the work of agents provocateurs.” However, because of the reference to organizers and the absence of any detail, it seems likely that the source of this information is the Celendín Libre site. (19) There is, however, in a July 3 report in 5R, Politica, the statement that the violence occurred when the demonstrators joined a group of “government construction workers ” who were demonstrating in front of the offices demanding pay that was owning to them.(197) A report in, however, makes no mention of a demonstration of construction workers, saying simply that “The violence flared up when a thousand demonstrators attacked” the government offices breaking doors and window. At that point, according to this article “shots were heard.” To that, the article adds this interesting detail: the protesters attempted to defend themselves against the police with fireworks which were intended to be used at trade union celebrations. Moreover, although there is no mention of a construction worker’s protest in the article, it is accompanied by a photo with this caption: “Demonstrators before they clashed with the police.” The photograph shows a disorganized crowd of men — probably at least one hundred — in front of a long two-storey building with blue doors and windows and white walls, all of which seem to be shuttered. Almost all the men are wearing dark blue uniforms and heavy boots and all of the men in uniform are wearing hard hats; about half the hats are blue and half, orange. A few of the men are carryng placards, but it is impossible to read the writing on them. A few are carrying long poles. One man seems to be kicking an object — possibly the remains of a computer or some other sort of electronic equipment. — on the ground. Other than that there is no sign of violence or imminent violence.(195) (The same photograph appears in the English language publication, Peru, This Week along with the statement attributed to the major Peruvian newspaper, El Comercio, that “A group of protesters from the worker’s union turned violent, which prompted a response from the police officers stationed in the plaza.” Here the impression is given, perhaps intentionally, that the “workers” were participating in the march that had began in another part of the city.) (6)

In any case, whatever the exact cause or the exact extent of the violence, the police response seems to have been out of all proportion to the attack. At 12:50 p.m., about ten minutes after the marchers arrived at the government offices, a force of 200 police and 300 soldiers counter-attacked the protesters with tear gas canisters, anti-riot guns shooting rubber bullets and with firearms loaded with live ammunition. In addition to the three people killed, thirty-three were injured and fifteen were arrested. (195) (The World War 4 report mentioned above mentions that, after the confrontation, the Peruvian Interior Ministry claimed that only non-lethal weapons were used against the protesters in Celendín; but it also mentions a report in the major Peruvian newspaper, La Republica, saying that “at least some” of the casualities in Celendín were suffering from bullet wounds.)(19) (According to Bloomberg News there were also reports, coming from the national government, that two police officers had been shot in the leg (4). These were never confirmed however and President Santos quickly issued a statement denying that any of the protesters were carrying firearms. He also stated that no police officers had been treated for bullet wounds.)

According to the account on the “Celendín Libre” site, after the shootings, the protesters were “infuriated” and they set fire to one government office and to cause other “disturbances.” At 3:00 p.m. five helicopters arrived in Celendín, carrying police reinforcements. By 4:30 the Peruvian National Police had taken control of the main square, and were preventing anyone from entering it. At 6:00 p.m. according to the final entry in the timeline, a commision arrived from the Regional Department of Health, bringing medical supplies with it.

Embedded into an article in the Spanish-language online publication, “” there is a brief video

Was the violence in Celendín the work of agents provocateurs? There is certainly not enough evidence in the “Celendín Libre” document or in the media reports to show that this is what happened. But, in light of well-established facts — including the fact that there happened to be 300 soldiers and 200 police officers in a town of 17,000 at the time — it is a plausible idea: the opponents of the mine were angry at the mayor for having spoken in favor of the Conga project at the meeting with President Humala and so, an attack on the mayor’s office would be an understandable target. It is also plausible that after months of mounting tension the Peruvian government would have chosen Celendín — close as it is to the biggest mining project in the country’s history — to teach the anti-Conga protesters a lesson, and to show its determination to protect foreign mining companies operating in Peru.

The idea that the killings in Celendín were a signal sent by President Humala to his fellow Peruvians and to the rest of the world was forcefully expressed by a European businesses analyst Diego Moya-Ocampos, who was quoted in Bloomberg News on the day after the massacre:

Humala’s stance is a clear sign that he is committed to continue supporting extractive industries as part of his plan to generate growth based on a social inclusion model whatever the political cost

There seems to be no readily available video showing the early stages of the protest in Celendín — or of the actual clash during which the shootings, and the injuries, and the arrests took place. But there is one fifteen-minute video “Death in Celendín financed by Newmont (Conga)” (“Muerte in Celendín financiada por Newmont (Conga)” which apparently shows the immediate aftermath.

In the beginning, we see the space in front of the government building, which apparently lines one side of the central square. On the left of the screen and some distance away from the camera we see what appears to be a group of soldiers or police. In the forground, quite close to the camera are two men. They seem to be taunting the police. One of them is waving a large flag. One is wearing an orange hard hat. (The flag is divided, horizontally, into gray, white, green and orange stripes.) There is a cloud of tear gas between the two mean and the police. Then the camera turns its attention to the other side of the square. In a shady, garden-like spot, a badly injured man — perhaps one of the three who died that day — has been laid. He seems to be gasping for breath. The people closest to him have taken off their hats and they are using them to fan him. There are apparently no medical personnel on the scene — or anyone else acting in an official capacity.

For the next few minutes the video shows a chaotic scene. The area of the main square is almost empty. Police (or soldiers) can be seen in the distance, standing together close the to government building. From time to time a protester appears in the foreground. At times only the tops of some garden palm trees are shown on the screen. Loud “bangs” can be heard; some seem to be coming from anti-riot weapons shooting tear gas canisters; others sound like gunshots. It is not clear whether the shots are being fired by the police that can be seen in the distance or from some other part of the town. At one point, though, there is a telephoto shot which seems to show a police officer firing into the air at the command of another officer. At another point (8:35) we see people running through clouds of tear gas into a large church that faces onto the square. At 9:05 we see several people holding up to the camera what appear to be rubber bullets. (These are not the flat discs often fired from anti-riot weapons; they are bullet-shaped, slightly blunted projectiles in metal shells, apparently meant to be fired from ordinary rifles or pistols.) At 9:20 we see some protesters outside a modern sports stadium. Soldiers or police can be seen watching them from the narrow open spaces in the wall. Shots can be heard, but it is not clear where they are coming from. Next there are shots of a group of police or soldiers who have set up a barricade of shields on a nearby street. Then there are closeups of a bag, presumably left behind by retreating soldiers; it contains tear gas canisters

At this the video becomes more chaotic than ever, but now the chaos seems to mirror the chaos of what is actually happening. We see a woman in a blue top being driven away on a scooter; on her thigh, blood is seeping through her jeans. Then we see someone who has apparently been badly injured being carried through the street and loaded into the back of a small pick-up. The voices in the background are filled with panic. In the next scene we are back in the main square another man is being carried by men holding on to his arms and legs. The man’s face is completely covered with blood. He is obviously very badly injured, perhaps already dead. He is laid on the ground. His eyes are open but seem to be lifeless. Someone puts their fingers on his neck, apparently feeling for a pulse. Eventually a vehicle arvs and he is taken away. The video ends with a short scene of soldiers in a street. Shots and the shouts of protesters can be heard in the background.

As soon as the fighting in Celendín had stopped, late in the afternoon of July 3, President Humala declared a thirty-day State of Emergency in three provinces of the Region of Cajamarca: Celendín, Hualgayoc, and Cajamarca. According to Bloomberg Businessweek:

The names of the three protesters killed in Celendín on July 3 were Faustino Silva Sánchez, César Medina Aguilar, and Eleuterio García Rojas. (219)

The state of emergency suspend[ed] the freedom of movement and assembly and allow[ed] police to make arrests without a warrant while authorizing the armed forces to help the police maintain order (4, 7)


As soon as the news of the killings in Celendín reached Cajamarca, protests began there. The situation was already tense. On May 31, Governor Santos had called another strike.(13) And just a week earlier, President Humala had announced that the Conga project was to go ahead now that Newmont had promised that despite the destruction of the lagoons, the water supply would be safeguarded. In front of the San Francisco church, university students on hunger strike were camping in small tents and with them were hundreds of campesinos who were sleeping on mattresses. (9)

George Black, an American reporter happened to be in Cajamarca on July 3. He was on his way back to Cajamarca after visiting the mine site when he heard the news of the killing in Celendín. Here is his description of the situation in the city.

We found Cajamarca seething with rage. A large crowd of mourners was screaming at a phalanx of police with helmets and riot shields. Someone had lit a row of candles on the sidewalk, mourners on one side, police on the other. A young girl next to me was weeping on a friend’s shoulder. She told me that the 17-year-old in Celendín had been a friend of hers. (¿ make sure: names: victims (ages))...More riot police blocked off the streets leading to the plaza. The inevitable groups of infuriated young men charged the police lines. Tear gas canisters rained down on us ... Amid the chaos, a small cluster of about 40 people, led by Marco Arana, the priest I’d interviewed the day before, sat cross-legged on the sidewalk holding candles and singing “The Sound of Silence” ... Eventually we retreated to the edge of the plaza by the Iglesia San Francisco, and watched as white pickup trucks loaded with police slowly circled the square. (iquest; link video of buses?) A man who works for a local human rights organization pointed to the license plates and told me that the vehicles belonged to Newmont. One of the pickups slowed down as it passed the church. A policeman pointed his tear gas pistol directly at me, and screamed at us to go home. Back at the hotel we found out that the government had declared a state of emergency to take effect at midnight.(9)

The next morning police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators in the main square. (4) When the demonstrators refused to leave despite these police actions, they the police issued three warnings on loudspeakers (¿ correct order? (cf remark on Arana in (12) exact time of arrest?))

It was apparently some time after these warnings had been issued when — as shown in a video published on the site of the Lima newspaper, La Republica Marco Arana was “arrested” in the central square of Cajamarca. Judging from the sounds which can be heard in the background at the time of the arrest, despite the tear gas and the the rubber bullets, the protests were continuing. Marco Arana was not actively participating, however. Before the video begins a still photograph is displayed showing Marco Arana sitting on a bench in a garden-like area of the square talking to a white-haired man who is sitting beside him. He has a cardboard sign hanging around his neck which reads “Agua sí, Oro no.” (“Water, Yes. Gold, No.”)Several riot police appear on the left-hand side of the screen and walk quickly toward the bench. The officer who arrives at the bench first grabs Marco Arana by the arm and pushes him roughly to the ground. Then he is roughly moved away across the square. At first he struggles with the police, repeatedly shouting, “ No me pegues.” (Don’t hit me.) Then he is pushed to the ground. After he is pulled up he walks freely with his hands in the air. Eventually shoved into a police vehicle.

There is another video of the incident, published on You Tube, which gives a somewhat fuller picture of what happened. But, because the cameraman’s view is obscured it does not show as clearly the shocking beginning when Marco Arana is pushed viciously to the ground. The most disturbing image, though, is a still photograph which shows Marco Arana’s whole face being squeezed by a very large policeman’s hand. This is presumably the point at which Marco Arana’s jaw was broken.

His other injuries were sustained while he was being interrogated and held over night in the police station.


Despite the state of emergency, on the day after the shootings in Celendín, there was another similar protest in Bambarmarca. Bambamarca is a town of about 18,000 about 35 kilometers north of Cajamarca city. It is the administrative center of Hualgayoc province. Photographs and videos of this event make it clear just how ready President Humala was, once the State of Emergency had been declared, to use the army to bring an end to the protests. One, You Tube video, “Bambamarca prevents the army from parading” (“Bambamarca impide desfilar a Militares”) apparently shows an army officer trying to convince the mayor of Bambamarca to allow his troops to march through the city without interference. (212)

Although this episode ended without any violence, there was violence during the day. During a confrontation between protesters and police in the Plaza de Armas (the city’s central square) Joselito Vásquez Jambo, twenty-six years old, was shot in the chest and died shortly afterward. He was apparently killed, not by soldiers but by the police.

Another You Tube video, “Confrontation leaves one dead in Bambamarca” (“Enfrentamiento deja un muerto en Bca.”) shows a large contingent of riot police marching into the central square in the midst of a large but apparently disorganized protest. All the police seem to be armed; some are carrying rifles, some anti-riot weapons. After marching across the square and being challenged ineffectually by small group of protesters, who walk toward them, marching together and carrying a flag, the police station themselves at the edge of the open area and squat down behind their shields. There is a close up shot of an officer preparing a tear gas canister. Another officer suddenly stands up and points an anti-riot weapon at the crowd, but does not fire. A moment later, however, shots can be heard. The police stand up and move forward slowly and cautiously. They behave as though they are in great danger. (At one point, what looks like a round rock or perhaps a ball appears from off screen and rolls toward them and a moment later another such object lands a meter or so in front of some officers and bounces toward them.) Several officers again form a solid line with their shields. One extends his arm between two of the shields and fires two shots with a pistol. There is a brief view of what is presumably tear gas pouring from the roof of a nearby building. (The ground floor of the building is occupied by the “Chechen Bookstore.”) Finally this group of police moves off, apparently pursuing demonstrators who have fled up a side street. (211, 214)

Next we see an injured man being carried through the streets in a blanket. His face is not visible, but this is presumably Joselito Vásquez Jambo.

The next part of the video shows a crowd in the street gathered around spots of blood and what looks like a piece of bloodied flesh. There are several empty shells lying nearby. Some people in the crowd are taking photographs of the street.

The remainder of the video is devoted to Joselito Vásquez Jambo’s funeral. Four men carry his coffin through a noisy, slogan-chanting crowd. A woman, possibly his mother, perhaps his wife, chants a lament with her eyes closed and a grief-stricken expression on her face. It seems as if she would collapse on the ground if she were not being supported by other women standing around her. A man makes an angry speech. He denounces the police for responding with deadly violence to a peaceful demonstration. He speaks of the uselessness of gold — “Good only for selling,” — as he puts it, and the preciousness of water, which is a necessity of life. (He also makes a passing reference to the drug trade.)

The final scene in the vide shows people sitting beside the coffin in the funeral parlour. There is a large photograph of Joselito Vásquez Jambo on display, and on the wall above, there is a stencilled “sign” which reads:

“It is better to die fighting than to be killed by cyanide.”

the fifth death

One of the 15 protesters injured in Celendín was José Antonio Sánchez Huamán. He was shot in the neck. Despite his very serious injury, he was arrested and, along with the others (¿ how many?) taken to Cajamarca in a police vehicle. From Cajamarca, the other arrested protesters were to be taken to Chiclayo (¿ distance?) to be charged. When they arrived in Cajamarca, however, José Sánchez was in critical condition. He was taken to a hospital there. He fell into a coma and died two days later on July 5th. (5, 12)

Pierina and Tintaya: repression of anti-mining protest in other parts of Peru


If the spate of shootings was an attempt on the part of the Peruvian government to teach the protesters a lesson, it did not have the desired effect. On September 20, 2012, in the Ancash region of northern Peru, a group of around 150 protesters from the villages of Mareniyoc and San Isidoro forced open a gate and entered the property the Pierina gold mine, owned by the Canadian company, Barrick Gold. A 55-year old man, Nemesio Rosales, was killed when he was hit in the neck by a bullet. He apparently bled to death at the entrance to the mine; his daughter later charged that his life could have been saved if he had received prompt medical attention. Four of the protesters were also injured — and three police officers were injured by rocks thrown by the protesters. The trouble began after Barrick stopped providing the villagers with clean water in cisterns; for the past eight days they had not had enough good water, either for their own consumption or for their animals and fields. Before breaking into the company compound, the protesters had been protesting by blocking road access to the mine. The company had offered to build a water treatment plant but the campesinos had rejected the idea, saying they did not want to use company water even if it had been treated and “certified” because they were afraid it would still be polluted. The governor of the region, (¿ name?) promised to hold an investigation into the incident and to see that those responsible for the shooting be punished. (203, 204, 205)

There is at least one other reason, beyond the suspicions about agents provocateurs in Celendín and the comments of European economic analysts, for asking whether President Humala was perhaps condoning the killing of protesters in order to sound a “message.” In late May, just over a month before the killings in Celendín, the President brought a violent end to another anti-mining protest. The Tintaya copper mine, owned by the Anglo-Swiss company, Xstrata, is located in Espinar Province of Cuzco region in southern Peru. The mine has been operating for thirty years and in 2011, the situation there was similar to the situation in Cajamarca: Tintaya was coming to the end of its life and Xstrata wanted to start work on a new mine in the same area. With the support of the provincial governor, Oscar Mallohuanca, the campesinos in the area were concerned that this would mean increased pollution of their farm and grazing land. They also felt that in the past they had received little benefit little of the profit from the mine had been to pay for local improvements. They were demanding that instead of allocating 3% of its profits to a “social fund” to be used for that purpose, in future it allocate 30%. The company was ignoring their demands and on May 21, Governer Mallohuanca called a strike. During the next week thousands of people blocked the roads to the Tintaya mine. Then President Humala sent in hundreds of counter-terrorism police. They drove the campesinos away from the roads, and, in the process two of the protesters were shot and killed. More than one hundred were wounded and twenty were taken prisoner and held inside the mine’s compound. Governor Mallohuanca was arrested and criminal charges were brought against him. (200, 201)