Two workers died and several disappeared during an attack on Chinese miner Zijin’s highly controversial Rio Blanco copper project in northern Peru, the company’s local director, Jian Wu, said on Monday.
About 15 to 20 armed people invaded the mining camp on Sunday and fired at its security guards, Wu said. Peru’s interior minister said several people were missing and that one was killed.
The attack may have been an act of revenge. In 2005, one protester was killed and two dozen others were tortured when townspeople mobilized to stop construction of the mine, which they said would cause pollution and hurt water supplies.
The mining development is run by Monterrico Metals of Britain, which was bought by Zijin Mining Group (2899.HK: Quote) (601899.SS: Quote) in 2007. Other Chinese miners have been investing in Peru, despite periodic conflicts over who controls natural resources.
In Britain, rights groups have filed a lawsuit against Monterrico over the 2005 clash.
Foreign companies and residents in poor towns often argue about mining and oil projects in Peru, one of the world’s largest metals exporters. The case of Rio Blanco has been especially bitter and rights groups say President Alan Garcia has often ignored environmental concerns in his push to lure foreign investment.
Elsewhere in Peru, tensions continue to simmer. This month, tribes in Peru’s southern Amazon threatened to forcibly remove employees of U.S. energy firm Hunt Oil’s petroleum exploration project in the Madre de Dios region.
In June, three dozen people died near the town of Bagua, in Peru’s northern jungle, as police broke up roadblocks set by indigenous groups opposed to oil exploration on their ancestral lands.
It was the worst unrest of Garcia’s term and forced him to ask Congress to repeal two laws designed to attract billions in investment to the Amazon. (Reporting by Marco Aquino and Patricia Velez; Writing by Terry Wade; Editing by Dana Ford and Lisa Shumaker)
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