Barrick Gold closes Peruvian mine for one day after violent clashes – by Vanessa Lu (Toronto Star – September 21, 2012)

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Barrick Gold is resuming operations Friday at its Pierina mine in Peru after violent clashes this week between police and nearby villagers left one person dead and four injured.

In an official statement from its Peruvian unit, Barrick, which is the world’s largest gold producer, said its mine operations were suspended Thursday out of mourning for “the unfortunate event.” The dispute centres on a disruption in the local water supply, which Barrick says is out of its control, blaming drought conditions.

The open-pit mine is high in the Andes in north-central Peru at an altitude of 4,100 metres above sea level. While it was once one of Barrick’s bigger mines, Pierina produced 152,000 ounces of gold in 2011, out of a company-wide total of 7.7 million.

Mining is central to Peru’s economy. The country is a key producer of gold, copper, silver and zinc, but opposition has long existed from locals, who worry about environmental problems and possible contamination of the water supply.

Last Friday, villagers from nearby Mareniyoc began blocking the access road to the Barrick mine, and as of Wednesday it was still blocked. Barrick says other roads are open, so its operations are not impacted.

But on Wednesday afternoon, Barrick says people from the Mareniyoc and San Isidro communities forced open the mine gate and entered the property, which brought a confrontation between national police officers and community members.

One villager was killed and four people were injured including an officer.

“The company wishes to express its sadness for this unfortunate event and its deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased person and to the community,” the statement said, adding Barrick is providing necessary medical care to the injured.

“The situation has been reported to the authorities, who will receive our full support to carry out corresponding investigations.”

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