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At least 38 injured in anti-mining protest

At least 38 injured in anti-mining protest

Farmers demanding a ban on mining in their region blocked access to the Peruvian highlands city of Andahuaylas on Friday after a violent clash with police that left at least 38 people injured, authorities said.
About 18,000 protesters tried to seize a police headquarters Thursday night after Peru's mining and agriculture minister refused to sign a pledge to ban mining, said regional police commander Col. Vicenzo Ieva.
After the ministers departed in haste, fearing risk of harm, protesters became violent, Ieva said. Police were showered with rocks and responded with tear gas.
Protesters set fire to and sacked a public building and damaged an electrical transformer, triggering a partial blackout, said Ieva. He said it took police four hours to restore control.
Ieva said 22 people were treated and released at city hospitals and three admitted with injuries. He said 16 police were treated for injuries.
The Associated Press was not immediately able to reach protest leaders for comment.
Agriculture Minister Miguel Caillaux said in a radio interview that there are no legal mining projects in the provinces of Andahuaylas and Chincheros where the protesters are demanding a mining ban.
There is, however, informal, unregulated mining, he said.
Anti-mining protests are also under way elsewhere in Peru's highlands in the first serious unrest facing President Ollanta Humala, who took office in July promising poor highlands peasants a fair balance between development and environmental protection and a greater share of the country's mineral wealth, the source of more than 60 percent of Peru's export earnings.
Humala was in Hawaii on Friday at an Asia-Pacific economic summit. But his Cabinet chief, Salomon Lerner, said in a radio interview that "the government will not allow small groups to sow chaos in the country."
He said the government's mandate was to "continue to be firm in resolving conflicts through dialogue and consensus-seeking."
In the northern state of Cajamarca, peasants opposed to the expansion of Latin America's biggest gold mine, Yanacocha, have been protesting since last month a plan that will drain ponds they use for irrigation and grazing and replace them with man-made reservoirs.
The environmental impact statement for that expansion, known as Conga, was approved under the previous government of Alan Garcia.
In another region, Ancash, protesters are demanding a higher share of royalties from mining.
Elsewhere, in the southeastern jungle state of Madre de Dios, the government has angered illegal gold miners with an operation that has destroyed dredges and other machines that have been tearing up the rainforest in a process that also introduces tons of toxic mercury into the environment.