Protesters against Tia Maria mine sentenced to prison
28 February 2014
As Peru’s mining returns to growth, conflict continues, with the planned Tia Maria copper mine among the flashpoints.
The project is in the Valle de Tambo, in the southern region of Arequipa, and is being developed by the Mexican-owned Southern Peru Copper Corporation.
Six leaders of the local Frente de Defensa of the Valle were sentenced on 18 February to four years in prison for their protest activities which had 'obstructed public services'. Their sentence comes amid concern about the criminalisation of social protest.
Operations were suspended at the mine in 2011 after a United Nations organisation (UNOPS) found deficiencies in the environmental report. A new document was presented in December and led to a strong public reaction. It is reported that the demonstrations reflected the views of a ‘sizeable majority’ of the population of the area. The protesters, mostly small scale farmers, expressed their total rejection of the project. The group sentenced are appealing.
The stakes are high: the mine is expected to yield annual output of 120,000 tons of copper, 8 per cent of Peru’s current copper production.
Other conflicts have also flared in the department of Cajamarca. On 11 February, local leaders ordered the detention of a mining engineer employed by the Aguila Dorada mining company on 11 February. The community leaders reject all mining in their traditional territories.
At the highly controversial Conga project, the company Yanacocha has begun blasting rock at the site. The International Institute on Law and Society, a Lima-based research institute with international membership, described the actions as a ‘provocation’ that would cut off any chance of dialogue over the social and environmental issues at stake between the company and local communities.