Tension continues at Las Bambas

09 April 2016

Strong protests by the communities affected appear to have secured the renewal of dialogue on the issues at stake in the Las Bambas project in Apurímac. La Bambas, just starting production, will be one of the largest mines in the world, and is owned by MMG, a Chinese company incorporated in Australia.

The forum, or 'mesa de diálogo' had been due to take place in the week of 21 March. It had been long awaited, overdue, and carefully prepared for by the communities, with NGO support. An accident at the airport on the Sunday 20 March led to the non-arrival of the government representatives, but, in the days that followed, the communities considered their non-arrival unreasonable.

The forum was thus suspended and by the following week the 47 communities in the mine's zone of influence had declared an indefinite strike, supporting colleagues on hunger strike in Lima. They demanded the cancellation of contracts with MMG on the grounds of improper procedure, including the lack of any 'consulta previa'.

Conflict was further inflamed by the charge brought by MMG against various social organisations, accusing them of 'association to commit illegal acts'. Meanwhile the local electoral court, the Jurado Electoral Especial de Abancay, argued for a response by the government on the grounds that it might pose a threat to Sunday's elections in the region if a significant group of local leaders was on indefinite strike (information from the NGO CooperAcción, Lima http://cooperaccion.org.pe).

On Thursday 7 April, the government did respond, sending the minister of housing, construction and sanitation, along with and the two vice-ministers of mining and transport, to Tambo bamba, capital of Cotabambas province.

A new date has now been set for the mesa de diálogo for 21-26 April, and a programme of work for the discussions is now reported to have been agreed. Additionally, the vice-minister of transport announced investments in paved roads to benefit the area, and the number of local leaders taking part in the forum has been increased. See: http://larepublica.pe/impresa/sociedad/758571-cotabambas-retoma-el-dialogo-con-el-ejecutivo-nacional-por-las-bambas

The Frente de Defensa de los Intereses de Cotabamba has said that the indefinite strike will be resumed immediately if the talks do not take place successfully on 21 April. The issues are wide-ranging and important, as we reported the last time discussions were about to begin.

There is no further news as yet on the accusations (denuncias) brought by the company, and tensions remain high.

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