Indigenous Chileans Defend their Land against Loggers with Radical Tactics

A Mapuche gathering in Ercilla, Chile. The Mapuche are protesting the presence of agricultural firms on their land. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Chile’s Mapuche people are resorting to increasingly extreme tactics to reclaim their ancestral land from exploitive industries

It is late autumn in southern Chile, and in the region of Araucanía, the leaves have turned copper and gold. But on the road to the mist-shrouded town of Lumaco, the hills are covered with rows of charred pines.

“We burned these forests as an act of legitimate resistance against the extractive industries that have oppressed the Mapuche people,” says Hector Llaitul. “If we make their business unprofitable they move on, allowing us to recover our devastated lands and rebuild our world.”

This year has already turned out to have been a particularly combustible one in a decade of rising attacks by indigenous Mapuche activists against the Chilean state and big business. Over several few days in April, crops were burned, roads were blocked and 16 forestry vehicles were set ablaze outside of the regional capital, Temuco.

Such actions have become more and more common. According to statistics published by a local business association, there were 43 attacks in the region in 2017, mainly arson attacks against logging firms.

“Anyone who hasn’t been in the Chilean forest doesn’t know this planet,” wrote Pablo Neruda, who grew up in the region – and whose verse was inspired by its wild landscapes, and the indomitable spirit of its native people who were only conquered after Chilean military campaigns in the late 19th century.

Today, however, much of the west of the region would be unrecognizable to Chile’s finest poet. In the last 50 years, monoculture pine and eucalyptus plantations have replaced the biodiversity of the original forests.

Meanwhile, Mapuche groups have become increasingly aggressive in their efforts to reclaim ancestral lands and gain political autonomy. Llaitul is a spokesman for the Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco (CAM), an anti-capitalist organization that uses direct action and sabotage tactics.

The group has also demanded the release of the shaman Celestino Cordova, who was convicted in February 2014 for an arson attack on a farmhouse north of Temuco that resulted in the deaths of an elderly couple, Werner Luchsinger and Vivianne Mackay.

Hector Llaitul, an indigenous activist. Photograph: Mat Youkee for the Guardian

Cordova began a hunger strike in January after officials denied his request to complete a religious ceremony outside of the prison. He temporarily suspended the strike in April to negotiate.

“The government practices and respects Catholicism but it discriminates against Mapuche spiritual beliefs,” he said from a hospital bed, guarded by police officers. “The Mapuche have been impoverished spiritually, culturally and economically by Chile. I’m willing to sacrifice my life for my people.”

But Cordova’s conviction in the high-profile Luchsinger-Mackay case has made it tougher to win public sympathy for his cause, said Nicolas Rojas Pedemonte, a professor at Alberto Hurtado University in Santiago and author of a new book on the Mapuche conflict.

“That case was an inflection point for the conflict,” he said. “It was the first fatal attack, it turned Chilean media against the Mapuche and was used by the state as a Trojan horse for a repressive response.”

Police presence has since been heavily increased in Araucanía leading to the militarization of the region and increasingly indiscriminate targeting of indigenous people, according to Rojas.

In January 2017, charges against several Mapuche – including Llaitul – were dropped after it was revealed that police had used manipulated WhatsApp messages as evidence in arson cases. “I don’t even use WhatsApp,” says Llaitul, brandishing a tiny Nokia.

The Luchsinger-Mackay case was also the first sign of a split in Mapuche activist ranks. A new more radical group – know as the Weichan Auka Mapu (the Struggle of the Rebel Territory, WAM) – emerged, adopting an explicitly anti-Chilean stance and the tactic of burning churches – most recently during the Pope’s January visit to the region.

Llaitul says the CAM rejects the targeting of individuals and that direct action against forestry projects is the first stage towards reclaiming the land for Mapuche settlements.

On a former timber reserve overlooking Lumaco, his vision is being put into action. The logging firm, Arauco, abandoned the project following repeated arson attacks and today, in a small clearing, a dozen young men and women are hammering timbers together on the construction of a house in the woods.

A Mapuche red, blue and green flag flaps from the apex.

The destructive results of a forest fire started by Mapuche radical groups. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

“When we recover lands we plant crops, breed animals and reconstruct our cultural world,” says Llaitul. “We will build houses but our first priority is a spiritual centre, the rewe.”

The rightwing government of the current president, Sebastián Piñera, has a different vistion for the future of Araucanía, the region with the worst poverty and unemployment rates in the country.

Ministers visited Temuco in April to finalize plans for a major growth plan for the region, focusing on tourism, agriculture and energy investments and training programs to allow the 150,000 hectares of land turned over to Mapuche groups in recent years to return to production.

The plan, to be launched in August, is also expected to increase the purchase of private lands by the national indigenous development agency.

“People in Araucanía are calling out for peace and development. Over the years so much investment has been turned away due to security fears,” says Luis Mayol, the Santiago-appointed administrator of Araucanía. “Piñera won 63% of the vote in this region – the Mapuche people want growth like everyone else. However, there is a small number of terrorists with radical ideologies and the resources to generate fear.”

While the development plan aims to win the support of Araucanías indigenous groups, accompanying amendments to the anti-terrorism law aim to make it easier to convict arsonists under terrorism charges.

“Our current legislation is quite useless: too many violent acts are being processed as regular crimes,” says Mayol. “We need to bring our definition of terrorism in line with those of countries such as the UK and Spain. For me, the systematic burning of trucks and churches are terrorist acts.”

Back at the reclaimed timber plantation, Llaitul remains defiant as two young Mapuche lift roof rafters into place on the new construction. “When there was no Mapuche struggle, the government did nothing for us” he says. “We’re not asking for palliative measures or integration, we want territory and autonomy for the Mapuche nation.”

This article originally appeared in The Guardian


Armed Men Destroy Two Dozen Logging Trucks in Chile Indigenous Dispute

Burnt-out trucks are pictured in the San Jose de La Mariquina commue, south of Santiago, Chile August 28, 2017.

SANTIAGO  – A group of armed men claiming to represent the nation’s indigenous Mapuche people hijacked and burned 29 logging trucks in southern Chile on Monday morning as a years-long conflict with forestry companies heated up.

The government convened an emergency meeting less than two weeks after a similar hijacking in which 18 trucks were burned, and several high-ranking officials denounced the attack later in the day.

“We’re going to combat violence and we are not going to allow minoritarian groups, which don’t value dialogue, to ruin the great effort all regional actors in the south are doing to promote development and overcome exclusion,” Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said in televised remarks.

It was not clear to what extent the attacks have broader support among Mapuche communities. Many Mapuche leaders doubt all such attacks are carried out by indigenous people, saying non-indigenous groups with a radical political agenda may be involved.

The group Weichan Auka Mapu, or “Fight of the Rebel Territory” in the local Mapudungun tongue, claimed responsibility, national media reported.

According to local authorities, at least two people were responsible for the arson attack, although local media reported that as many as seven people were responsible.

Around 600,000 Mapuche live in Chile, concentrated in Araucania and Bio Bio, two lush and hilly provinces roughly 400 miles (645 km) south of Santiago, the nation’s capital.

Ever since the Chilean army invaded Mapuche territory in a brutal campaign in the late 1800s, relations with the state have been fractious.

The conflict has accelerated in recent years, with armed groups burning houses, churches, trucks, and forest plantations. It has also spread geographically. The Monday attack occurred in the region of Los Rios, south of the traditional conflict zone.

The trucks belonged to Sotraser, a subcontractor that mainly serves subsidiaries of Chilean forestry companies Empresas CMPC and Arauco [ANTCOC.UL].

The company reported $6 million in damages. While that figure is not significant in relation to Chile’s larger timber industry, subcontractors have begun to register dozens of attacks annually in recent years, weighing on the sector.

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Sandra Maler

 (Reuters) Aug 28

Mexico: Land Defenders Occupy Mining Installations


May 7th, 2016 from Servicios Para Una Educacion Alternativ 

translated by Earth First! Journal

Seven years since the brutal eviction in which the Coordinated Unity of Towns of the Valley of Ocotlán (CPUVO) were beaten and imprisoned, we are still demanding the immediate exit of the mining corporation Fortuna Silver Mines.

Coordinated Unity of Towns of the Valley of Ocotlán (CPUVO) were beaten and imprisoned, we are still demanding the immediate exit of the mining corporation Fortuna Silver Mines.

For this reason, the town of San José del Progreso, in the framework of the National Campaign to Defend Mother Earth and Land, has determined to occupy the main entrance to the mining projects installations.

Community members blame that company for the wily murders of our compañeros, Bernardo Méndez and Bernardo Vásquez, social warriors who lost their lives defending the land.

In this sense, far from finding justice for these violations to our rights as Indigenous People, the mining corporation, in cahoots with state and federal authorities for over a year (since April, 2015), acquitted the murderers.


In the same sense, this project is expanding through territories of San José del Progreso, Magdalena Ocotlán, Monte del Toro, and San Martín de los Cansecos, even though the communities have made evident the systemic violations which the project has produced against the towns, leading there to be no peace in José del Progreso.

CPUVO declares solidarity with the struggle and resistance in this country and makes a call out to continue coordinating our strength and brotherhood[/sisterhood] to defend via the National Campaign to Defend Mother Earth and Land.

We demand the immediate cancellation of the San José [mining] project, as well as its expansion into ejidos [communal land] and municipalities. In addition to the immediate cancellation of ALL [emphasis added] mining projects in the state of Oaxaca, we also recognize communities who have strengthened their resistance in the Central Valley regions, as well as the Southern Mountains, North Mountains, Mixteca, and Isthmus [Valles Centrales, Sierra Sur, Sierra Norte, Mixteca, and Istmo] against mining projects of death.

Justice for San José del Progreso!

Coordination of Unity Towns of the Valley of Ocotlán, May 6, 2016

San Carlos Apache Tribe Takes On Australian Resources Giants

PHOTO: Naelyn Pike, 16, says the Oak Flat campground is sacred to the San Carlos Apache tribe. (ABC News: Stephanie March)

PHOTO: Naelyn Pike, 16, says the Oak Flat campground is sacred to the San Carlos Apache tribe. (ABC News: Stephanie March)

Native American San Carlos Apache tribe takes on BHP, Rio Tinto over plans to mine sacred site

A group of Native Americans in Arizona are taking on two Australian resources giants to try to save a sacred desert campground from being destroyed by a huge mining development.

Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of Australia’s Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, plans to turn the area around the Oak Flat campsite in the Tonto National Forest into the biggest copper mine in North America.

Members of the local San Carlos Apache tribe said Oak Flat was a sacred place where they had held religious and cultural ceremonies for centuries.

“It is no different to what people can relate to about Mount Sinai,” Apache tribal leader Wendsler Nosie said.

The company has warned the underground mining operation could eventually cause Oak Flat to sink by 300 metres, making it inaccessible to the public.

“If this is destroyed it can never come back to us and that is the one thing I don’t think Resolution Copper understands or sees,” 16-year-old Apache activist Naelyn Pike said.

PHOTO: The company has started exploratory work on the site but will not start full-scale production for years. (ABC News: Stephanie March)

PHOTO: The company has started exploratory work on the site but will not start full-scale production for years. (ABC News: Stephanie March)

Campground lost in controversial land-swap deal

Ever since white settlement, Native Americans have struggled to hold onto their land, but the company argued the mine could coexist with the local community.

“We don’t have too much say in the location of the resource that we are developing,” Resolution Copper project director Andrew Taplin said.

Tribal leader Wendsler Nosie

PHOTO: Wendsler Nosie is trying to get Congress to repeal the legislation that could see the Oak Flat campground become a copper mine. (ABC News: Stephanie March)

The company acquired the land through a controversial land-swap deal approved by the US Government in December.

Under the deal, Resolution Copper will take control of more than 970 hectares of copper-rich land around Oak Flat, and the company will transfer more than 2,140 hectares acres of privately owned land across the state to the US Forest Service.

After failing to get the deal through Congress for years, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain attached it at the last minute to a “must-pass” spending bill — the 1,600-page National Defence Authorisation Act — late last year.

“It’s downright crazy, dirty [and] disrespectful,” Mr Nosie, who is spearheading the fight against the mine, said.

The company has started exploratory work on the site but will not start full-scale production for years.

PHOTO: The Oak Flat campground could sink up to 300 meters as part of the mining operations. (ABC News: Stephanie March)

PHOTO: The Oak Flat campground could sink up to 300 meters as part of the mining operations. (ABC News: Stephanie March)

Project would have benefits for community: miner

Opponents are lobbying members of Congress to pass the Save Oak Flat Act, a piece of legislation from Arizona Democratic Representative Raul M Grijalva that would repeal the land-swap deal.

Resolution Copper has already invested more than $1 billion in the development it says is one of the top five undeveloped copper resources in the world.

Project director Mr Taplin said the project would have huge benefits for the local community.

“The mine will have a life of 40 years and, over the life of the project, will develop over $60 billion worth of economic benefits,” he said.

That would include thousands of jobs — including for Apaches living on the nearby San Carlos Reservation, which has some of the highest unemployment levels in the state.

“Employment is something we are going to need on our reservation,” Mike Betom, an employee of Resolution Copper and a member of the San Carlos Apache tribe who supports the mine, said.

The company said 25 of its current employees were Apache, 15 per cent of the total workforce.

“I think it will eventually provide opportunities for [tribe] members, education benefits, scholarships, community partnerships,” Mr Betom said.

“There are a number of other things that can happen between the mining company and the San Carlos reservation if they ever decide to come to the table and talk.”

Arizona is one of the most heavily mined parts of the United States. The region where the Resolution Copper project is underway has been home to mining operations for over a century.

As part of the development, the company is rehabilitating large tracts of land previously damaged by mining operations.

The company said it would continue to consult with the community as it went through the permit process, but Mr Nosie said he and his supporters would not give up their fight to stop the project.

“This time we are going to hang onto the land, we are going to hang onto what God created, we are going to hang onto the spirituality of this place,” he said.

PHOTO: Fifteen thousand Native American Apaches live on the San Carlos reservation in Arizona. (ABC: Stephanie March)

PHOTO: Fifteen thousand Native American Apaches live on the San Carlos reservation in Arizona. (ABC: Stephanie March)

Source: ABC Online


Cree Tribe Fights To Save Boreal Forest In Quebec

Clear-cut forest on the Broadback River pictured on August 18, 2015, in Waswanipi, Canada (AFP Photo/Clement Sabourin)

Clear-cut forest on the Broadback River pictured on August 18, 2015, in Waswanipi, Canada (AFP Photo/Clement Sabourin)


Waswanipi (Canada) – Mandy Gull holds back tears as she steps off the helicopter in northern Quebec. “I’ve never seen anything so sad,” says the young woman whose aboriginal tribe is seeing its ancestral lands eroded by logging.

“If my grandfather knew,” says the deputy leader of the Cree tribe, one of 11 indigenous ethnic groups present in Quebec.

The flyover of the Boreal forest, pockmarked by clear-cuts, both saddens her and toughens her resolve to end deforestation in the region.

“We don’t own this land… as Cree, we know that we’re stewards of the land, (and) we’re here to protect the land,” she said.

Gull’s tribal village of Waswanipi, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of Montreal, has been fighting for years to preserve some 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) of pristine forests in the Broadback river valley. Loggers have already cut swathes through 90 percent of adjacent lands.

For the Cree, protecting the forest also means protecting the reindeer, moose and other wildlife being pushed further and further north by logging and climate change.

The Cree grand chief signed an accord with the Quebec government in July to preserve 9,134 square kilometers of woodland caribou habitat along the 450-kilometer Broadback, which flows through the taiga to the Arctic.

But Waswanipi trappers say the deal does too little to safeguard their land. They point out that half of the areas protected from logging under the accord were already off-limits to forestry firms.

Since the government of Quebec unveiled a conservation plan for the north that paradoxically opened the door to more logging along the Broadback river, the town of Waswanipi has felt under siege.

– Not ours to sell –

Forestry firm representatives have approached Don Saganash about his hunting lands in the area.

“They came to talk to me about building a bridge because the river is narrower here, but the Broadback is not for sale,” he said of the crystal clear river where sturgeon, pike and walleye swim.

Seeing trucks loaded with logs drive by “is like getting stabbed in the gut,” said the retired ambulance driver.

“My father used to say: the land is not ours to sell. God provided us with the land to live in harmony with nature.”

The forest is at the heart of these northern peoples’ identity. Newborns are baptized in ceremonies that include walking on pine needles and circling a conifer placed in front of a tipi.

For generations, native hunters have kept a watch over this land, keeping tallies on the fauna and inspecting trap lines.

Snowmobiles may have replaced dogs and sleds and boats with outboard motors displaced canoes, but many of the 16,000 Crees living in Quebec still uphold their nomadic ancestors’ traditions, even though they were themselves forced to settle down four decades ago.

– ‘Save the Broadback’ –

At that time, the Quebec government started building massive hydro-electric dams in the north to supply cheap electricity to the province and northeastern US states.

In exchange for supporting these projects, the Cree gained some political independence and significant funding.

Quebec also recognized their historical hunting rights but the state maintained control of natural resources within its borders.

“The Quebec government does have the right to come here and extract these resources, but these aren’t just resources, it’s a way of life,” said Mandy Gull.

From a climate perspective, “the Boreal forest cover is essential for everybody,” she added.

To help them in their fight against forestry firms, the Cree recruited Greenpeace, which on this late August day deployed a massive banner in the outback, legible from the sky that reads: “Save the Broadback!”

Greenpeace’s activism, however, has angered the Quebec government and it is embroiled in litigation with forestry giant Resolu Forest Products that alleges it was defamed by the group. The company is seeking Can$7 million in damages.

The feud led one of Europe’s largest publishers Axel Springer in late August to stop buying paper produced in Quebec, saying it no longer felt comfortable supporting a forestry firm that is battling aboriginals and environmental activists.

Hoping to increase pressure on other pulp and paper buyers, Greenpeace invited foreign journalists to tour the forest to see the impact of logging firsthand.

“Few people in Quebec have ever laid eyes on such pristine forestland, it is truly something very rare indeed,” said Greenpeace biologist Nicolas Mainville.

“We have to take a strong stand when it comes to protecting the forest from a company that wants to build a bridge over this river to get to the other side and cut down one of the last virgin forests in Quebec.”

Don Saganash long struggled alone to safeguard his ancestral lands, but now he stands supported by several aboriginal groups.

And he has vowed to “fight to the death” to protect his lands from logging.

Peruvian Relatives Of Murdered Forest Defenders Win Land Title

The widows of murdered forest defenders travelled to Lima to demand justice (Facebook/If not us then who?)

The widows of murdered forest defenders travelled to Lima to demand justice (Facebook/If not us then who?)

By Megan Darby

The Asheninka people have been campaigning for land rights to their ancestral homelands in the Peruvian Amazon for more than a decade.

Their case shot to the world’s attention last September, when four of their number were killed, allegedly by illegal loggers: Edwin Chota, Jorge Ríos Pérez, Leoncio Quinticima and Francisco Pinedo.

The men’s widows took the fight to Peru’s capital Lima, while it was hosting the last round of UN climate talks.

With the media spotlight on, they accused the government of failing to support their efforts to protect the rainforest – a crucial part of the climate agenda.

Report: Peru climate pledge hinges on forests wager

Last week, they won the legal title to the 200,000-acre (809-sqkm) territory of Saweto.

Diana Rios, daughter of Jorge Ríos Pérez, was triumphant: “They thought they could treat us badly forever. But no! We are human beings!

“We don’t want more bloodshed… We ask the State to support us and to support other communities too. It’s not just Saweto – there are other communities that don’t have titles.”

Indeed, more than 1,600 communities have outstanding claims, according to indigenous rights network Aidesep.

Hailing the “great success” for the Asheninka, Tom Bewick of Rainforest Foundation US, added: “We hope this action will push the State to recognize the land rights of all indigenous communities in Peru.”

Many of these ethnic minority groups live in remote parts of the rainforest, where tree-cutting outlaws threaten their way of life.

For Chota, land rights were essential to confront the armed loggers who pillaged with impunity, days’ travel from the nearest enforcement outpost.

“As long as we don’t have title, the loggers don’t respect native ownership,” he told National Geographic in the year before his murder. “They threaten us. They intimidate. They have the guns.”

Up to 80% of Peru’s timber exports are harvested illegally, according to a 2012 World Bank report.

It is a major driver of climate change, with deforestation responsible for some 40% of Peru’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Across the Amazon, researchers have calculated a third of the carbon stored in trees sits in indigenous territories.

Legal rights helped to defend those areas from commercial pressures to clear space for agriculture, hydropower generation or extractive sectors, they argued.

The government put deforestation front and centre of a draft climate pledge in June, with policies including land rights for indigenous people.

But critics questioned whether Lima would see the strategy through.

Andrew Miller, campaigner at Amazon Watch, told RTCC the authorities had weakened environmental and human rights protections under the guise of encouraging investment.

“The titling of Saweto is one small step in the right direction, but it doesn’t bode well for other communities that this required years of effort, the assassination of four leaders, and an international outcry to finally happen,” he said.

“Expanding indigenous land recognition is not expensive, but the political will is often lacking in favor of extractive industries like oil and mining.”

Peru: Mine Project Suspended After Deadly Protests

Farmers opposed to a mining project in their city clash with riot police in Cocachacra, Peru, Thursday, May 14, 2015. Farmers and local leaders fear the $1.3 billion Tia Maria open-pit mine will contaminate irrigation water in the rice farming-rich Tambo valley on Peru's desert coast. Thousands have mobilized against the project, which is owned by Southern Peru Copper Corp., a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Farmers and local leaders fear the $1.3 billion Tia Maria open-pit mine will contaminate irrigation water in the rice farming-rich Tambo valley on Peru’s desert coast. Thousands have mobilized against the project, which is owned by Southern Peru Copper Corp., a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Submitted by WW4 Report on Sat, 05/16/2015

Grupo Mexico’s Southern Copper Corp on May 15 announced a 60-day halt in its huge Tia Maria project in southern Peru’s Arequipa region following seven weeks of escalating protests in which three people have been killed and more than 200 injured. Company president Oscar Gonzalez said in a statement that the “pause” would let all sides air concerns and “identify solutions.”

Protesters in Cocachacra, the center of the conflict in Islay province, say they have no intention of backing down from their demand that the $1.4 billion project be canceled. Peru’s President Ollanta Humala said canceling the project would expose the country to lawsuits and make it less attractive to investors.

That same day, National Police at a Cocachacra road checkpoint arrested the main leader of protests, Pepe Julio Gutiérrez, on extortion and conspiracy charges. He is accused of soliciting a bribe in exchange for ending the protests. The government has called for Grupo Mexico CEO Germán Larrea to appear in Lima to address the claim.

Peru’s Willax TV on May 13 broadcast an audio recording in which Gutiérrez, president of the Tambo Valley Defense Front, apparently seeks a bribe from a Southern Copper lawyer. The company protested that “wrongful action was carried out by third parties outside the organization.” Energy and Mines Minister Rosa Maria Ortíz pledged an investigation and warned of legal action.

Protest leaders say they will continue an “indefinite strike” in Islay, even though the government has mobilized soldiers to the province. Local farmers fear the mine will contaminate crops in the fertile Tambo Valley. The company says the project would take water from the Pacific Ocean and return it there after processing. Protests against the project in 2011 also claimed three lives.

In Cocachacra on May 14, protesters threw stones at police, who responded with tear-gas. Twelve people were reported injured, and protests spread to other towns and cities, including the regional capital of Arequipa. Popular leaders in the regions of Arequipa, Moquegua, Tacna, Puno and Cuzco have called a meeting for this weekend in Arequipa’s capital to discuss an indefinite strike throughout Peru’s Southern Macro-Region. (APEFEEl Búho, Arequipa, May 15; AP, May 14)


Forces Seize, Destroy Illegal Mines Around Nazca

(Photo: Andina)

(Photo: Andina)

By Corey Watts | Peru this Week

Police and Peru’s armed forces have again stepped in to seize and destroy illegal mining operations threatening heritage values.

A diverse array of illegal mining equipment worth more than S/. 127,000 (US$ 400,000) was seized and destroyed by Peru’s National Police (PNP) near the Nazca archaeological site in Ica, it was reported today.

Antonion Fernandez, Peru’s High Commissioner for Formalization and Interdiction of Illegal Mining, said that the country’s first task was to protect its natural and cultural heritage assets.

The Nazca geoglyphs were designated a World Heritage Site byUNESCO in 1995, hence the mineral riches under the ground remain untapped.

The temptation is for illegal miners to take advantage of what Mr Fernandez calls a “wilderness of minerals”.

”Illegal miners dig tunnels there, mostly in an effort to find gold ore,” Mr Fernandez told official news agency Andina.

In a separate operation last month, a combined force of soldiers, marines, and police, with the help of the Air Force, were deployed to the El Sira protected area in Ucayali to destroy illegal mining equipment and secure the reserve.

About 22,000 people, comprising 69 indigenous communities, live in the area, some of whose artisanal mining enterprises have been recognized for several years.

Four people were arrested and a long list of illegal mining equipment destroyed.


Imperial Metals Announces Amidst Protests That Mount Polley Mine Could Re-Start In Months

Secwepemc Women's Warrior Society Kanahus Manuel photo courtesy Warrior Press

Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society Kanahus Manuel photo courtesy Warrior Press

VICTORIA – The open-pit, gold-and-copper mine hit by a devastating tailings pond breach that caused an environmental disaster in central British Columbia could be operating safely and near full capacity within months, the company has announced.

Steve Robertson, vice-president of corporate affairs at Imperial Metals Corp., (TSE-Ill), said Wednesday that more than 50 per cent of Mount Polley’s 370 employees would be back at work if the Vancouver-based company is granted a permit to restart operations.

“If we get a permit approving the restart of the mine in June, it’s going to take a few weeks, but within a few weeks we would be able to be up and running,” he said. “What we’re proposing is a modified restart.”

Robertson said the startup phase would not be full speed.

He said 276 people were employed doing restoration in March, but those numbers are fluctuating.

Environmental and aboriginal groups say they will oppose any decision that allows Mount Polley, blamed for spilling 24-million cubic metres of silt and water into nearby lakes and rivers last August, to resume operations.

“We don’t want it to reopen,” said Kanahus Manuel, a spokeswoman for the Williams Lake area Secwepemc Women Warriors Society.

“What I know for a fact is a small group of people can do a lot. We have these small pockets of people everywhere, and together we make up hundreds of thousands of people who are opposed to mining and destruction of our territory.”

The warriors’ society was part of protests at the Toronto Stock Exchange, B.C. government offices, the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles and Portland State University in Oregon.

“When it comes down to it we are talking about clean water,” said Manuel. “That tailings pond will be forever. That destruction that they did there and all those tailings they are not cleaning up will be there forever.”

B.C.’s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said Imperial Metals must prove to a mine development technical review body Mount Polley can resume operations safely, on a temporary and permanent basis.

A 30-day public comment period on Mount Polley’s application to reopen ends May 2.

The review body includes representatives from government agencies, First Nations, local governments, the community of Likely, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada.

An independent, government-ordered report concluded earlier this year the construction of Mount Polley’s tailings pond on top of a sloped glacial lake weakened the foundation of the dam and was akin to loading a gun and then pulling the trigger.

It said the spill was caused by an inadequately designed dam that didn’t account for drainage and erosion failures associated with glacial till beneath the pond.

Bennett said he is deeply aware of the environmental, economic and social concerns associated with the mine-permit decision.

“There are a lot of families up there worried about their jobs,” he said. “You get pulled in both directions. I want to make sure it’s done absolutely flawlessly from a policy point of view. I also want to see those families working.”

Tahltan Approve Management And Revenue Deal For Red Chris Mine

‘My personal goal is that we have at least 50 per cent Tahltan employment (at Red Chris) within the next 10 years,’ says Chad Day, president of the Tahltan Central Council.

‘My personal goal is that we have at least 50 per cent Tahltan employment (at Red Chris) within the next 10 years,’ says Chad Day, president of the Tahltan Central Council.

By Gordon Hoekstra |Vancouver Sun, April 23, 2015

Agreement will provide jobs, cash and environmental oversight of gold-copper mine in northwest B.C.

The Tahltan Nation has approved an agreement with Imperial Metals under which it will share revenue from the $643-million Red Chris gold and copper mine and be involved in environmental oversight of the mine.

A co-management agreement, which the First Nation is calling “historic,” was supported by 87 per cent of those who voted in a referendum. Of the Tahltan’s 2,000 eligible voters, just under 500 voted.

Details of the agreement are being kept confidential, however it includes provisions for training and jobs. Environmental oversight provisions require that a majority of environmental monitors will be Tahltan, whose traditional territory is in northwestern B.C.

Already, 20 to 30 per cent of the workforce at the mine is First Nation members, said Chad Day, president of the Tahltan Central Council.

“My personal goal is that we have at least 50 per cent Tahltan employment within the next 10 years,” Day said in an interview.

Day called the agreement a big step for the Tahltan people.

“Tahltan people have been living on our lands for more than 10,000 years, so it makes sense for us to be involved in making sure our lands, waters and wildlife are protected for everyone without affecting our title and rights,” he said in a written statement.

The Red Chris mine, which recently went into production, has been in the spotlight because Imperial Metals also owns the Mount Polley gold and copper mine where there was a catastrophic failure of the tailings dam last summer. The failure of the earth-and-rock dam released millions of cubic metres of water and finely-ground rock containing potentially-toxic metals into the Quesnel Lake watershed in the Interior.

While there were already environmental provisions in a draft agreement for the Red Chris project before the Mount Polley incident, those were beefed up after the tailings dam failure, said Day. Those provisions include regular third-party reviews of the tailings facilities which will be reported both to the Tahltan and the company, said Day.

“We will make sure that Imperial Metals is going to follow through on the recommendations that come out of these third-party reviews and recommendations that come out of the committees we have in place,” he said.

Following the Mount Polley dam failure, the Tahltan successfully demanded a third-party review of the tailings facilities, paid for by Imperial Metals.

The review by Klohn Crippen Berger found the Red Chris tailings facility design was feasible if constructed properly.

However, the review found design deficiencies and called for increased monitoring to prove the design. The engineering firm made 22 recommendations, which Imperial Metals agreed they would follow.

The engineers noted that “any failure of the Red Chris impoundment will likely have a much more significant environmental impact than the Mount Polley failure.”

While the central council has been supportive of the mine project, which is about 80 km south of Dease Lake, the elders group the Klabona Keepers blockaded the Red Chris site for several weeks after the Mount Polley spill over fears of a similar incident.

Imperial Metals did not respond to a request for comment on the co-management agreement.