A thoughtful and strong report from Cooperacción suggests that the long-running dispute over the Las Bambas Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is far from over. New proposals from the environment minister for a further modification may not be enough to keep dialogue going.

Elsa Galarza, the minister, has announced that the company will present, by the end of March, a further modification of the EIA (neither an ‘actualization’ nor an ‘integrated’ version with consultation) and that the National Service for Environmental Certification (Senace) will then have five months to evaluate it, during which time there will be popular participation.

While this could validate the process, Cooperaccion certainly has reason to challenge the company and the government as to whether this is a ‘pig in a poke’, a further deception.

As we have reported, the communities’ discontent with the follow-up of the EIA has been central to the serious protests over the last two years.

Ana Leyva, the director of Cooperacción, the NGO that has stood alongside the communities faithfully over several years, offers a useful history and analysis. See http://cooperaccion.org.pe/main/index.php

She reports how serious modifications to the original EIA had been introduced and another was now proposed, which should have been subject to validation by stakeholders. Such validation can take the form either of an ‘actualization’, required anyway after five years, or a new ‘integrated EIA’ (‘un EIA integrado’), important given the likely involvement of both the ministries of mines (Minem) and environment (Minam). In either case, full participation by those affected is required.

In 2015 the communities rightly objected to the two modifications of the EIA and to the use (four times over) of a new instrument, the so-called ‘informe técnico sustentatorio’ (ITS) introduced where modifications to an EIA are considered perfunctory. The ITS process does not require consultation and must be approved in only 15 days, and the communities say they knew nothing of this new instrument.

As Leyva describes it, the consultations that took place were derisory, with the communities claiming that the names of those who supposedly took part in consultations included dead people, children, and people who subsequently swore they were not present.

As the environmental consequences of the changes brought about became clear through the course of 2016 (dust and noise from the road destroying livelihoods and health, it is claimed), so unrest grew, and the communities demanded either an ‘actualization’ or an ‘integrated EIA’.

A key part of the intervention by the vice-president, Martin Vizcarra, in December 2016, was to say that there would be a further modification of the EIA. As this was supposed to happen within three months, Cooperacción disputed the seriousness of the proposal at the time (which was in any case a matter for the company not the government). Galarza’s latest proposal is unlikely to convince the locals in Apurímac