A survey of public opinion on the effects of mining has just been published by Cooperacción, who commissioned it from Ojo Público, the news service ‘dedicated to vigilance over and the control of state and corporate power…corruption in all its forms and other threats against the public interest, the environment and human rights’. The title of the report is ‘Estudio sobre la Formación de la Opinion Pública en el Corridor Minero del Sur Andino’.

The survey was conducted in the ‘mining corridor’ which runs through the Southern Andes and where mines owned by firms such as MMG (Las Bambas), Hudbay (Constancia) and Glencore (Antapaccay) are located. The survey has a quantitative and a qualitative component. For the quantitative results, 300 results were analysed. Questionnaires were completed in November 2017 in Cusco and Yauli in Espinar, key points of sensitivity in the mining corridor. The random sample covered all socio-economic levels, with respondents aged 18-65. Twenty-one interviews in Tambobambo (Apurímac) and Santo Tomás (Cusco) across a range of occupations were used to give depths to the findings.

Both sets of results show a strong conviction that mining contaminates (93% say it contaminates ‘much’ or ‘some’). 83% think there is less water available today than 10 years ago, because of mining. But 57% think mining is important (very or somewhat) for the development of the country. This is echoed in the interviews.

However, the majority (84%) think that companies don’t respect human rights. They do not approve agreements with the police. While in an earlier survey the Defensoría found that in Lima 68% blame trouble on the popular leaders of protests, here the majority blame the government and the companies.

An interesting positive finding is that the majority do think environmental conflicts could be resolved, and 62% think this can be through dialogue (3% favour a ‘mano duro’). However, 82% think the government favours the mining companies.

The qualitative interviews fill out the sense of the inadequate role of the government. Dialogue tables are important, but not well used. The state is often described as absent, weak in its ability to dialogue with the population and communicate results. People are willing to take part in dialogue and plead to be heard and have their demands attended to.

So the ‘no to mining’ attitude much criticized by the establishment is not reflected here, and there are signs that better implementation of dialogue could be effective. But a change of practice is clearly needed.