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Peru strikers clash over Barrick tax ruling

March 7th, 2005

Thousands of protesters angry at a court decision to waive a $141 million tax payment levied on Canadian miner Barrick Gold Inc. clashed with riot police in Peru's central Andes on Monday, the latest in a run of anti-mining protests in the mineral-rich nation.

Police used tear gas to disperse the farmers, teachers and striking city hall workers from the mountain road leading to Barrick's Pierina mine in the Ancash region, authorities said.

A few hundred people vowed to continue their protests at the entrance of the mine, Peru's second-largest gold pit, Ancash city hall official Pelayo Luciano told Reuters.

Twenty people, including two police officers, were injured in the clashes and Ancash Mayor Lombardo Mautino was hurt by a rubber bullet, Luciano said.

"We believe Barrick should spend the money they would have paid in taxes on hospitals, schools and roads," said Marco de la Rosa, an aide to Mautino, who led the protests. "They must give the communities some benefit."

A Barrick spokesman in Lima said output at the world's third-largest gold producer was unaffected by the protests.

A Peru tax court last year ruled Barrick did not have to pay taxes that the company argued were levied unfairly in 1999 and 2000. Peru's tax authority SUNAT said in January it would not appeal the ruling.

"The tax issue is resolved and we won't be altering that," Barrick spokesman Vince Borg said from Toronto. "We have done a lot of community work since we entered Peru in 1994 and we will continue to do so," he added.

Fears that mining will damage water supplies and farmland have sparked a backlash against the booming industry, the backbone of Peru's economy.

Last year, protesters forced Peru's biggest precious metals miner Compania de Minas Buenaventura <BUEv.LM><BVN.N> to freeze two gold projects in the northern Andes, one of which it owns with U.S.-based Newmont Mining Co <NEM.N>.


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