Fresh trouble at Las Bambas

01 September 2018

The government has once again declared a state of emergency along the route linking Las Bambas with the port of Matarani, giving police special powers to deal with a string of protests to have emerged over the past two weeks. 

Communities are protesting against the use of the road by which mineral is transported to port, or at least demanding compensation. Reuters last week reported on the blocking of the road by the community of Fuerabamba where local residents had built a ditch to prevent trucks crossing community land. 

As in the past, local communities complain about MMG, the affiliate of China’s Minmetals, arbitrarily deciding to ship copper by road rather than construct a beltway (mineroducto) linking Las Bambas (in Apurímac region) with Matarani (in Arequipa) as anticipated by the original Environmental Impact Assessment completed in 2011. As we have mentioned before, the EIA was amended by a 2013 Informe Técnico Sustentatorio (ITS) that effectively did away with the beltway scheme and excluded a number of communities originally identified as being in the sphere of influence of the Las Bambas project.

El Comercio provides a useful chronology of disputes surrounding Las Bambas since 2004. 

The communities say that the dust and vibration caused by giant trucks passing is damaging to their livelihoods. They also accuse the government of complicity by upgrading the road to the status of a national highway.

Reuters quotes a company representative, Ted Woodruff, saying that the blockage had resulted in the suspension of the movement of copper concentrates. Speaking from Australia, Woodruff went on to say “MMG is committed to establishing a significant dialogue with the communities”. However, a company official in Peru called on the government for “prompt action” to reopen the road.

Some 200 policemen are reported to have been dispatched to the community. The state of emergency will be in force (subject to possible renewal) for the next 30 days along the full length (482 kms) of the highway and extending 500 metres either side of it.

Other communities have also followed the example of Fuerabamba. At Vilille, in Cuzco, the community has taken similar action, demanding that the EIA be amended to include them in the sphere of influence of the mine. It too complains of the negative environmental impacts of road haulage. Local police want a state of emergency declared in the region.

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