Dispute between artisan gold miners in Peru leaves 14 people dead

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LIMA, June 8 (Reuters) - Fourteen people died in an armed dispute between small-scale miners in a remote gold-mining town in southern Peru, authorities said Wednesday.

The violence was the latest incidence of unrest in Peru's increasingly volatile mining sector, following a recent fire allegedly set by wildcat copper miners at Southern Copper Corp's Los Chancas project.

The incident occurred between June 1 and 2 in the province of Caraveli in Peru's southern Arequipa region, Marco Cuadros, the head of the Arequipa police's criminal division, told journalists.

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Cuadros said seven people were found "dead by firearm projectile" in a first police intervention and that on Tuesday seven more bodies were found in the conflict zone. He added that the causes of their deaths are still under investigation.

Edwin Martinez, a legislator for the Arequipa region, told Reuters by telephone that the 14 deaths were due to a dispute over areas where small miners extract gold. Martinez said the death toll could rise as 10 people remain missing, according to relatives.

In 2021, Peru produced 96.6 tonnes of gold, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, making it the largest gold producer in Latin America. Roughly 10-15% of Peru's production of gold comes from artisan or informal miners, mostly from remote and poor areas.

The Arequipa prosecutor's office said in a statement that 31 people allegedly involved in the confrontation between informal miners have been arrested. The miners work on lands held by mining companies Intigold Mining, Calpa Renace and Ático Calpa.

The firms were not immediately available for comment.

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Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Brendan O'Boyle and David Gregorio

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