New government faces tough extractives legacy

18 July 2016

On 13 July, the key environmental NGOs CooperAcción, Fedepaz and Grufides presented the 18th report of the Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros. This covers the first six months of 2016 and makes recommendations to the new government. The commentators underlined the report's main highlight: that under the Humala government social conflicts averaged 217 in any one month, 70% of which were social/environmental.

The Kuczynski government inherits 212 active conflicts, the majority around environmental issues. The election period saw the usual acceleration of such instances, with renewed conflict in May in each of the main current hotspots: Tía María, Las Bambas, Espinar, and Constancia.

The report emphasises the concentration of conflict in southern Peru, above all in Apurímac, and the dangers posed by the weakening of environmental controls by the outgoing Humala government. Humala’s creation of SENACE (Servicio Nacional de Certificaciones para las Inversiones Sostenibles) was a promising step, but today there are no signs of any move to strengthen and develop it, or to reverse the weakening of OEFA (Organismo de Evaluación y Fiscalización Ambiental).

Ana Leyva, director of CooperAcción, expressed concern about the growing use of Informes Técnicos Sustentatorios (ITSs), which enable investment decisions to be made in 15 days without citizen participation.

The report expresses concern about water use. The data cited say that mining uses only 2% of the available supply, but these is from 1979; Yanacocha alone uses 34% of the water supply in the watershed in which it operates.

All the speakers at the launch expressed concern over what they are hearing as the 'emphasis on economic solutions' in the discourse of the new government, whereas the report shows that social, cultural and environmental issues are at the heart of the problem, alongside the economic. It is notable, said José De Echave of CooperAcción, that at La Oroya Kuczynski recognised workers' needs and claims but made no mention of the environmental dimension. Contamination from the smelter there has become an international blackspot.

The speakers, however, welcomed promises to strengthen the Oficina Nacional de Diálogo y Sostenibilidad and the proposal for a Sistema Nacional de Prevención y Solución Pacífica de Conflictos Sociales.

These six-monthly reports provide indispensible documentation, building on the work of the Defensoría del Pueblo. They give a detailed follow-up on all the main conflicts. For example, the Rio Blanco conflict which the PSG documented in 2007, is carefully charted, with an account of the current trial of various police officers accused of torture. For our original report see

The report on Espinar, however, fails to mention the important case that began last week in the High Court in London over alleged abuse of human rights by to Xstrata (the mine is now owned by Glencore). According to Leyva, the dialogue forum at Las Bambas “advances slowly and in an irresponsible manner”.

Press interest continues to reflect the importance of the topic, and we have viewed no fewer than 19 reports of the report and its launch.

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    The Peru Support Group exists to promote social inclusion, sustainable development and the observance of human rights in Peru. To that end the PSG highlights shortcomings in observance of established norms, whether international or local in nature, in its research, advocacy and publications. In so doing, it underscores the relationships that exist within the political system, how institutions work, and the effectiveness of policies that aim to reduce poverty and inequality within the context of sustainable development.

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