Discord at the giant Las Bambas copper mine has centred since the beginning on concerns about modifications to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Modifications made at that time allowed for the development of a transport route that has caused huge problems for communities as a result of the dust and vibration from heavy trucks. The protesters highlighted the failure properly to consult the affected communities.

Now the communities are outraged by the third attempt to modify the EIA. The Frente de Defensa de los Intereses y Desarrollo de la Provincia de Cotabambas has sent a detailed critique of the latest modification to the SENACE (Servicio Nacional de Certificación Ambiental para las Inversiones Sostenibles).

The technical report, described as based on an “independent revision done by environmental specialists” makes 22 observations and recommendations.

The criticisms include failure to update the hydrological information, a lack of analysis of the consequences for the critical factor (water) despite the proposed amplification of the project, and the failure to consider the hot potato of how concentrates should be transported. The Frente reiterates concern over the lack of public participation.

Poignantly, Prime Minister César Villanueva recently said that “we’re not going to impose any mining project without communities feeling first at ease: that’s what dialogue is for”. He went on to add that the government will encourage mining operations, but will only approve projects that have local support. /

Clearly there is much work still to do to clear the air at Las Bambas, a project in which President Martín Vizcarra has been personally involved both as a former governor of Moquegua and then as vice-president in the previous government.