Peru bringing charges of sedition against anti-Conga protest leader

FT reports Peru's Congress in a terse statement last night announced charges of “an incitement to the crime of rebellion” against Gregorio Santos, the province of Cajamarca’s Maoist governor who has lead violent protests against Newmont Mining's Conga project.

Newmont stopped construction of the massive copper and gold mine in November after the protests in the poor region of northern Peru.

The protesters say the $4.8 billion project will destroy the environment by transforming four high Andean lakes into reservoirs for mining operations.

The FT reports on a speech given by Santos to a large crowd on Tuesday that appears to have led to the calls for his arrest and a directive to "restore order" in the region:

“What do we do when the president doesn’t keep his word?” Mr Santos asked.

“We throw him out!” the crowd responded.

“And when he doesn’t honour his commitments?”

“We throw him out!”

In December Peru was forced to declare a state of emergency after boulders were used to block exits from the regional capital of more than 200,000 inhabitants, schools, hospitals and business were closed and dozens injured in clashes with police.

Conga would be the biggest investment ever in Peru mining and could produce 580,000 – 680,000 ounces of gold and 155 million – 235 million pounds of copper annually starting as early as 2014..

Peru’s Prime Minister said in January the stalled project will have to be developed as the government could end up with a “huge” compensation payment.

The cumulative amount of corporate taxes paid by Peru’s mining industry accounts for over 30% of the government’s annual tax revenues. At the moment, approximately 80% of these collections are used to pay for public services.

Mining companies in Peru plan to invest $42.5 billion over the next decade, mainly in copper and gold projects. Peru is the world’s second-largest miner of copper.

MINING.com reported yesterday that these mining investment now hangs in the balance after key figures in president Ollanta Humala’s ruling Gana Peru party resigned over the government’s handling of protests against Xstrata in the south east of the country last week.