Conga, Peru’s biggest single investment, has been shuttered since November, when protesters blockaded the city of Cajamarca for 11 days because of concerns over the local water supply.
Héctor Medina, mayor of Chugur, confirmed that the workers, part of a non-government organisation contracted by Newmont and Buenaventura to deliver social programmes at Yanacocha, were being held “without violence”.
Mr Medina accused the workers of trying to win support for Conga in exchange for gifts of school supplies.
“We do not want crumbs from Yanacocha,” he told local radio. “I don’t think there will be aggression… Chugur and all its communities reject Conga and the presence of the Yanacocha mine because our river no longer has water. That is our concern.”
Carlos Mercado, managing director of the non-government organisation, Foncreagro, denied the workers had been offering gifts in exchange for support for Conga.
“Our colleagues have been doing work of a social nature,” he said. “It is regrettable that the climate of intimidation . . . has reached levels of kidnapping and holding people against their will.”