Peruvian gold mine’s power infrastructure attacked for the 14th time in two years

High-voltage towers knocked down at the Poderosa mine in Peru. (Image by Minera Poderosa).

The Poderosa gold mine in northwestern Peru experienced yet another attack by illegal miners, who this time around used dynamite to take down two high-voltage towers that supply energy to the operation, located in the province of Pataz.

In a communiqué, Minera Poderosa said that the criminals broke into the mine’s pits right after knocking down the towers. 

“This attack occurred despite there being a State of Emergency and a contingent of more than 300 members of the National Police and the army in the area. This new attack occurred shortly after the police evacuated 150 troops from specialized units that had been providing services in Pataz, who had not yet been replaced,” the release states.

The mining company noted that although the deployment of law enforcement officers in Pataz has been a positive step, their presence has not been matched with any strategy to deter illegal miners from carrying out their activities and attacking legal operations. 

In Poderosa’s view, illegal miners feel protected by the Comprehensive Mining Formalization Registry (REINFO) and the recent repeal by the Peruvian Congress of the regulations that sought to halt their modus operandi

Earlier in March, the parliament repealed the first provision of legislative decree 1607 that gave the police special powers to detain miners who are not registered in REINFO and who are illegally transporting weapons and explosives.

“Unfortunately, law enforcement actions have been severely limited by the lack of support from the Prosecutor’s Office and regional representatives of the Energy, Mines and Hydrocarbons Management. Let us remember that the latter is in charge of supervising the work of artisanal and small-scale miners,” the statement reads. “This criminal act emulates the actions of the terrorist groups that sieged the country in past decades, as it threatened the integrity of our personnel and endangered our operations. In the last two years, 16 employees have lost their lives in attacks by illegal miners and 14 towers have been knocked down.”

Government and industry respond

In response to Poderosa’s declarations, the Minister of Energy and Mines, Rómulo Mucho, condemned the attack and emphasized that the operation would continue to be protected by the army and National Police. 

Mucho also recognized that the mining formalization process has been more complex than expected, particularly after certain decision-making processes were transferred to the regional directorates.

But the minister’s statement wasn’t enough for industry representatives. 

In Lima, the Chamber of Commerce demanded that authorities take swift action to locate and prosecute the criminal organizations behind such acts.

Similarly, Supera – a firm dedicated to the business transformation of mining companies – published a commentary saying that authorities must commit and take action to provide security to established mining companies, as they are the main engine of the Peruvian economy.

Poderosa is an underground operation situated at an altitude that ranges between 1,250 and 3,000 metres above sea level.

Gold and silver are its main products, having produced 300,662 ounces of gold and 191,898 ounces of silver in 2022.