Las Bambas: one step forward, two steps back?

19 August 2017

On 16 August after six months of work, an agreement emerged from the Dialogue Table reconvened in February to attempt to resolve the issues between the government, the local communities and the mining corporation MMG, which is developing the huge Las Bambas copper mine. But just as some progress was being made, the government has resorted to declaring a state of emergency in the region, prompting new tensions.

The agreement was signed by the government and representatives of the authorities in Chumbivilcas, ratifying the investment plan promised by the government to bring peace and development to the region after the prolonged protests of last year. The main cause of the protest had been the failure to consult changes made to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with affected communities. Among other things these involved using road haulage to transport mineral rather than an earlier pipeline plan which would have had much less negative environmental consequences. See PSG article.

The new accord makes specific plans for investments in health and education, with no less than 145 projects. Although no new money is offered, it involves implementing the previously discussed Development Plan for the region. In announcing the plan, the minister of energy and mines promised that the ministry’s team would return to the province in six months to see that the projects are advancing.

However, the accord fails to satisfy the demands of the communities most affected by the dust, vibration and accidents resulting from transport of mineral from Las Bambas by road through local communities' lands.

For the last two weeks, six communities have been blockading the road. This led to the government to declare a state of emergency last week, suspending constitutional guarantees. The government is demanding the re-opening of the road before further dialogue can begin, but the communities are insisting on a new and more successful Dialogue Table first to resolve the matter.

The resort to a state of emergency is being widely condemned as a precipitate use of such a measure in a situation of peaceful protest and a further step in the criminalisation of protest.

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