Peru gold miners dispute, at least 14 dead

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At least 14 people have died in an armed dispute between small-scale miners in a remote gold-mining town in southern Peru.

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's Los Chancas project.

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

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.

The cause of their deaths is still under investigation, he said.

Edwin Martinez, a legislator for the Arequipa region, told Reuters by telephone 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 mined 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 per cent 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 31 people allegedly involved in the confrontation have been arrested.

The miners work on lands held by mining companies Intigold Mining, Calpa Renace and Atico Calpa.

The firms were not immediately available for comment.

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