Tambogrande back in the spotlight

11 March 2019

Proinversión, the government agency in charge of promoting and approving new investment projects, announced at the end of last month that a new US$350 million project, El Algarrobo, is under consideration. 

The project is in Tambogrande, Piura, and the peculiar interest lies not just in its size but in its past history. The new proposal concerns 'TG3', one of the three components of the project which back in 2001-03 shaped the history of popular protest and the mining sector.

The historical controversy surrounded 'TG1'; the new project is to the south of the previous one and supposedly in a 'less sensitive' area. The earlier project involved open pit mining right alongside the main square of Tambogrande. It also involved the likelihood of inflicting serious damage to one of Peru's richest agricultural valleys, highly productive in lemons and mangos, changing of the course of the River Piura and relocating of the cemetery.

Public protest was fired not only by these threats, but also by the alleged abuses committed by the company in dealing with the public concerns. The result was path-breaking in terms of the history of protest in Peru: eventually a referendum was convoked by the district municipality of Tambogrande in which some 96% of the local population said ‘no’ to the project. This was the first instance of its kind in Latin America. The government then rejected the proposal on the grounds (formally) of the insufficient provision of the necessary capital by the company

The company concerned back in 2003 was the Canadian ‘junior’ Manhattan. We have not yet been told which company is now involved. But investors are clearly treading warily, as is the government. And both with good reason. The proposal is being helped by the extent of informal and illegal mining which has since developed around the area, with significant damaging social and environmental impacts. The company would be required to develop an industrial park and water initiatives for human consumption, and the project this time would apparently be principally underground.

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