A small step forward in the Majaz case

05 May 2018

The story of the 'Majaz' mine begins in the 1990s with the realization that a giant copper resource close to the border between Peru and Ecuador was a good prospect; it later became known as the Rio Blanco project. The early exploration was undertaken by a British company, Monterrico Metals Plc, and its Peruvian subsidiary Minera Majaz SA.

However, deep hostility to the mine on environmental grounds led to serious violence and incidents of torture and forcible detention in 2005. Public prosecutors investigating the alleged torture found the police responsible and absolved Monterrico Metals

But tensions then rose. In 2007 the company halted exploration and a referendum was held in which 97% of local inhabitants opposed the project. Also in 2007, Monterrico sold the project to a Chinese consortium Xiamen Zijin Tongguan Investment Development Corporation preparatory to the development phase of the mine.

In 2009, despite the referendum and with no consultation, the government approved a new plan for making good the environmental impact of the exploration. This plan was completed by the end of 2010, at which point the company closed the mining camp.

Today, despite the referendum and ongoing hostility to the mine, the project is still very much on the cards, with a new development plan approved in 2016 (again without any prior consultation).

In the meantime, the effort has continued to bring to justice and impose significant penalties on the perpetrators of the criminal acts, with the desperate slowness of such judicial systems. In 2011 the claimants brought an action to have the Ministry of the Interior included as a tercero civil responsible, a responsible party. That case eventually failed because, as the judge argued, those bringing the case had not at that point won their own claim to be included as 'civil actors' in the case. In 2017, they succeeded in this.

Now at last, in 2018, there is cause for (modest) celebration, since the local Appeal Court in Piura has ruled that the 2011 ruling was misguided, on the grounds that the lengthy delay in the claimants' own case to be included was unfair and not their fault. The Ministry of the Interior has therefore now been included as a responsible party. If found guilty, it would have to provide compensation to the victims.

The Fedepaz lawyers working for the claimants are pleased by this development. Fedepaz is the human rights group that filed the original complaint. 

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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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