[JURIST] The government of Peru on Saturday declared a two-month period of martial law in the southern state of Arequipa where residents are protesting the construction of a copper mine. Being under martial law allows police to enter homes without search warrants, as well as to break up protests and meetings. Southern Copper Corporation [official website] plans to build a copper mine known as Tia Maria for $1.4 billion, which residents strongly feel will contaminate the water and air in the region. Specifically, they believe that the mine will be detrimental to farming in the area by using too much water and also creating dust in a neighboring village where many crops are grown. Protests have continued for over two months and often turn violent, even after the government approved [WSJ report] the company’s environmental study last year that claimed the company could operate a clean mine. The government had already sent in over 4,000 police officers and 1,000 soldiers to the area to try and control the protests, which have resulted in the deaths one police officer and three protesters. Jose Ramos Carrera, mayor of Punta de Bombon, stated [WSJ report] that although residents will continue to oppose after martial law begins, what the declaration “shows is that the government wants the mine to go ahead at all costs.”
Mining effects on the environment have been a nationally disputed issue in Peru over recent years. The Tia Maria project was originally put on hold in 2011 after protests occurring around the area led to three deaths. In order to revive the project, Southern Copper created a new environmental plan hoping to show that a cleaner mine was possible. The project was again suspended [WSJ report] a little over a week ago on May 15 due to the increasingly violent nature of the protests. The stalls have affected the nation’s economy, as well as President Ollanta Humala’s [NY Times news archive] approval ratings. A similar situation occurred [BBC report] in the town of Celedin in 2012, when protests over the planned Minas Conga mine caused the deaths of three people.