On 7 April, as we went to press, it was announced that an agreement had been struck between the leaders of the community of Fuerabambas, the Chinese company that owns La Bambas, and government negotiators headed by Prime Minister Salvador del Solar. The meeting was hosted by the Bishops Conference in Lima which appears to have played a decisive role in bringing the community, the company and the state together.

The key agreements reached included:

  • An end to the road blocks that have led to the suspension of mineral shipments between the Las Bambas mine and the port of Matarani for nearly two months.
  • A “mutually satisfactory” financial deal between MMG and the community of Fuerabambas concerning the property of Yavi Yavi.
  • Agreement by MMG to honour promises of local employment first made by Xstrata in 2009. MMG took over the project from Xstrata-Glencore.
  • A delegation of ministers which will travel next week to Cotabambas in Apurímac to discuss the region’s development needs.

Although the precise details of the agreement remains unclear, it appears to bring to an end a long-running conflict that has been costly both to the communities, the Chinese company and to the Peruvian state. It remained unclear whether the agreement would resolve the complaints of people living in Chalhuahuacho, a town close to the mine.

Going back to the beginning of last week, the newly-released president of the community of Fuerabambas, Gregorio Rojas, met in Lima on 31 March with government officials. The latter offered to lift the state of emergency authorising the use of force in the region in exchange for an end to the road blockades. Rojas said he needed to consult his people.

Following a meeting on 3 April with representatives of at least 52 of the communities, the decision was made to continue their actions until their legal advisors (also imprisoned) were released.  As of the time of writing, it seemed that both were still in jail in Cuzco.

Del Solar insisted on 5 April on the government’s openness to dialogue, and stated “that the community of Fuerabambas was seeking in the Church and the Defensoria the confidence which it has difficulty in finding in the State”.https://elcomercio.pe/politica/gabinete-salvador-solar-recibe-voto-confianza-congreso-noticia-623695. This referred to the initiative to involve the Episcopal Conference, which had offered to help and was invited to do so by the various sides involved.

In last week’s newsletter, Carlos Monge highlighted the complexity of the issues involved at Las Bambas. . These related to the road used for transporting mineral from the mine and how this differed from the terms specified in the original Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), subjected to various changes that were not consulted with the communities involved.

More fundamentally, we still have a mining project which has raised huge expectations and has not fulfilled them. Hitherto it has been the road that has been the main bone of contention, but the impact of the mine over the surrounding area remains problematic. The two issues involved concerning the road have been the compensation demanded by the affected communities (both for failure to purchase the land in the correct manner and for the environmental and social damage done by the dust, vibration and noise), and who should bear the burden of remediation, estimated at a total of 2,000 million soles (US$606 million) and covering both the legal sorting of claims and the asphalting and maintenance of the road to the standard needed for loaded trucks.

The road between Las Bambas and Matarani is 400 km in length and crosses 72 communities, not just the community of Fuerabambas. Cooperaccion points out that any lasting solution must take account of this . Cooperaccion proposes a toll to finance the road, since the major users of the road are the mines. A solution proposed by some, the use of the canon, would be, they argue, totally inappropriate, since the canon is meant to be used by local authorities for social and economic development.