Las Bambas: deficient dialogue, on-going tension and threatened strike

06 June 2016

It was major news when the 'mesa de diálogo' (or ‘forum for dialogue’) was able to resume in March to work on the tensions in Apurímac around the huge Las Bambas mine. But the unsatisfactory process since then is only too well documented in a new report from the NGO Cooperacción

The report uses a framework developed in a workshop organised last September in Cuzco by Oxfam, UNDP, the Catholic University and Cooperacción itself. It sets out 15 recommendations on how to improve that dialogue. Set against this, the record is not good.

Four main themes run through this excellent and dispassionate account:

  • the imbalance of power between the state and social organisations, including communities;

  • the lack of impartiality of the various state actors, above all those from national government;

  • how this has increased distrust among the communities; and

  • the failure to sort out the respective roles of the state and the company.

None of the above has been helped by the failure to prepare the ground for the mesa, properly and well in advance.

Lack of impartiality has been the clearest sign of the inequality of power and at the same time the main reason for lack of trust. Examples abound. For instance, the way community representatives were cut off when speaking and not provided with interpreters. The report emphasizes just how little confidence the communities and social organisations have in the state, and the failure to grapple with this in advance. Adequate preparation would clearly have helped.

On the respective roles of the company and the state, the communities are extremely unhappy about the promises made that roads would be paved. This would alleviate health problems arising from the dust thrown up by 200-300 trucks a day passing. Local groups feel aggrieved too by the lack of action on enabling local producers to supply the mine. The mesa has so far failed to produce clarity on who should assume the responsibility on such matters.

It was these two issues that led on 2 June to a declaration by the principal social organisations involved, at a press conference in Abancay, the capital of Apurímac, threatening strike action if these points are not resolved. Last September, an indefinite strike was suspended until after the election.

For the framework, see ‘Aportes a la política nacional de diálogo y consenso para zonas mineras en Perú
For the strike threat:

Meanwhile social tension continues in small but distressing incidents. The PSG received last week a copy of an email with photos attached, addressed to the Defensoría of Apurímac, asking for an investigation into an incident where the company instigated what the community claims was an invasion of their land in the tiny village of Taquiruta, with threats and violence directed at two pregnant peasant women, who were tending their sheep. A small incident no doubt (and as yet uncorroborated), but this is the sort of thing that further sours the atmosphere for negotiation.

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