Peru anti-mine roadblocks lifted, government calls talks

Sat Dec 3, 2011 4:36pm EST

By Teresa Cespedes

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian protesters opposed to a $4.8 billion gold mine project abandoned roadblocks on Saturday as government officials called weekend talks with regional leaders to try to resolve the conflict.

Earlier this week, U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp agreed to a government request to stop work temporarily on the Conga mine after the protests turned violent.

The demonstrations in the northern region of Cajamarca, which included roadblocks designed to pressure the government to cancel the largest mining investment in Peru's history, started 10 days ago.

Local political leaders want President Ollanta Humala to stop the gold mine from being built, saying it would replace a string of alpine lakes with artificial reservoirs and cause pollution.

Protesters also have criticized Humala for moving too far to the right and for supporting the project, which would generate thousands of jobs and enormous tax revenues.

"The main access routes have been cleared after police went in and opened up the roads," regional government spokesman Segundo Mata said.

"There's access for vehicles, the situation has got back to normal and vehicles carrying fuel, food and tourists are passing," he said. The blockades around the city of Cajamarca had started to cause shortages of basic goods.

Protest leader Wilfredo Saavedra said mine opponents had agreed to dismantle the blockades. "Today, activity is normal in Cajamarca."   Continued...