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Peru's president-elect vows consultation in bid to end mining conflicts

President-elect Ollanta Humala said remote towns bear the costs of mines, which can cause pollution and sap scarce water supplies, but do not see direct economic benefits from them, as thousands of indigenous protesters opposed to mining lifted their blockades in the remote Peruvian region of Puno. The protests only ended after deadly clashes prompted the outgoing government to give indigenous people more control over natural resources.

Mr. Humala, a leftist former army officer who has promised to govern as a moderate, takes office on July 28. He campaigned on promises to end conflicts, in part by charging a windfall profits tax on mining companies to fund anti-poverty programs in rural towns.

"The issue of mining concessions generates 70 per cent of the conflicts in the provinces and we think mining needs to contribute more to development," Mr. Humala told reporters.

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Mr. Humala also wants to pass a bill that would require Peru to adhere to the UN treaty on indigenous peoples, which requires tribes to be "consulted on issues that affect them" to ensure there is "free, prior and informed participation in policy and development processes."

Congress approved the bill at least once, but outgoing President Alan Garcia refused to sign it into law, saying the treaty gives local communities the power to veto the construction of new mines.

Peru's mining ministry issued a rule over the weekend that requires companies to consult with mostly Aymaran Indians in southern Puno before building new mines or oil projects. The government also revoked the licence of Canadian mining firm Bear Creek Corp. on Friday in a bid to persuade the protesters to allow stores and roads to reopen.

Protests in Puno turned violent on Friday and five people died in a clash with police. Conflicts over natural resources - which have killed nearly 100 people over the past three and a half years - have marred Mr. Garcia's term as poor towns demand a bigger slice of Peru's lucrative mining boom or try to halt projects they said would cause pollution.

Mining is the traditional economic engine of Peru, one of the world's fastest-growing economies, and Mr. Garcia has lined up more than $40-billion in foreign investment for mining projects for the next decade.

Reuters News Agency

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