15 April 2018
The new government in Peru has its hands full on many fronts in the mining sector. Several major projects face serious issues.
In Piura, a protest has been building since March against the Chinese owners' plan to restart the development of the Rio Blanco copper project. The company is currently updating its environmental impact assessment (EIA).
The Asociación de Rondas Campesinas de Ayabaca are demanding compliance with the local referendum held in 2007 in which, they insist, 97% of the population of the communities affected rejected the plan to develop the mine.
Monterrico Metals, the British firm which owned the concession at that point sold it to Zijin in the midst of a scandal over images of torture of community members.
A peaceful protest is planned for 7 May, including a march to Lima. The main issue concerns the impact of the mining project on water and the fragile ecosystem.
A second point of tension is the Tia Maria project of Southern Copper which has now been twice brought to a halt by local protests. The new prime minister, Cesar Villanueva, has stated his belief that the project can go ahead this year. He thinks that this can happen by “talking with the people” and so to get over a number of “nudos” or knotty problems.
The core opposition comes from the association of irrigation users who are convinced that the mine will damage agriculture. The Arequipa regional government is concerned more to achieve various promised projects to help the development of Islay where the mine would be based.
Meanwhile, tensions persist at Las Bambas with local leaders coming to Lima last week to plead for a new style of relationship with local communities. However, regardless, a new supreme decree has just prolonged for a further 60 days the state of emergency imposed in the mining corridor that runs through Apurímac, Cuzco and Arequipa. The measure seriously reduces protection for human rights. It sends an unfortunate message as to the new government’s policies. The extension is not surprising, but disappointing.
Finally, conflict has again erupted in Espinar, Cuzco, where police were brought in to evict families living on land earmarked at Antapaccay by Glencore for road building required to expand copper operations.
According to the Cuzco-based Derechos Humanos sin Fronteras, ten people, all reportedly women, were injured on 3 April. Three of them are in a serious condition, having been insulted and then kicked by the police for defending their homes.
Antapaccay mineworkers were reportedly used to intimidate community members into selling their land to build the road. Witnesses quoted by Derechos Humanos sin Fronteras say that mine employees told families that if they refused to sell their land (for which they offered US$200), the money would be given to the state authorities instead.
The issue of contracts between private companies and the police for security services has been a cause of concern for several years, particularly with regard to the handling of social protest and altercations with communities. There are approximately 118 contracts between police and private companies at present. A contract between the police and Glecore at Antapaccay was renewed in December 2017.