* Leftist Humala signs bill aimed at preventing conflicts
* Mining group backs law after veto power scrapped
By Caroline Stauffer
LIMA, Sept 6 Peru's leftist president signed a
law on Tuesday requiring mining and energy firms to consult
rural communities over new projects, a step aimed at averting
conflicts that have stalled investments in recent years.
Rights groups representing indigenous communities have long
called for the so-called consultation law, which stops short of
giving them veto power over projects and is welcomed by
industry leaders in the resource-rich Andean country.
More than 100 people have been killed in recent years in
conflicts over water, pollution or natural resources, often
pitting residents in impoverished regions against foreign
mining and oil companies.
Peru's ombudsman says the new law, approved unanimously by
Congress last month, could quell disputes that often turn
violent and pose a threat to some $50 billion in investments
planned for the next decade.
President Ollanta Humala, who pledged to ensure the poor
take part in an economic boom when he took office in July,
signed the law in a jungle town where 33 people died in a clash
between police and indigenous protesters two years ago.
"We've taken an important step to solving a problem, we're
building a republic that respects all its nationalities,"
Humala said in the town of Bagua.
Violence erupted in Bagua during a protest calling on
then-president Alan Garcia to repeal laws encouraging foreign
mining and oil investment in the rainforest.
Garcia vetoed an earlier version of the consultation law
last year, saying it gave towns the power to turn away
investment needed for development.
The version of the law signed by Humala requires companies
to try to reach agreement, but does not grant veto powers to
local communities. That change has won support from business.
"If we've got well-informed people in the communities, if
we've got clear and transparent rules, this could be a very
interesting law for this country," said Pedro Martinez, head of
the national mining society. "In many cases the conflicts have
been caused by misinformation."
Some indigenous leaders have been losing faith in Humala, a
former anti-capitalist radical who has recast himself as a
moderate leftist. [ID:nN1E77G18P]
But hundreds of indigenous supporters gathered in Bagua on
Tuesday, cheering Humala as he donned traditional
beaded necklaces for the signing ceremony.
"We're in favor of this law, there has to be shared consent
by communities and the government," Pedro Ciollo of the leading
AIDESEP indigenous rights group told Reuters.
(Editing by Helen Popper and Dale Hudson)