Looking forward to the October provincial elections, a conference was held in Cotabambas (Apurímac) on 21 July entitled ‘Elections, the Challenges of Sustainable and Integrated Development, and the Struggle against Corruption’.

It was organised by the provincial Frente de Defensa, the district-level Frentes, the Federación Provincial de Mujeres, and the Federación Campesina de Cotabambas, among others. It was supported by various NGOs.

While the meeting may not have mentioned mining in its title, it hardly needed to do so being held in the shadow of Las Bambas, the hugely controversial copper project owned by MMG.

As part of the wider issue of ‘reconstructing politics’, the meeting was a clarion call to the communities to develop ‘environmental vigilance’ as the most useful means of defence against the environmental impacts of mining projects

The challenge to the local communities affected by the mine was to develop their own project. If they did not, their dependence on the mine was inevitable; the owners of the mine, on the other hand, have their objectives crystal clear.

Land-use planning was seen as the key tool for development. This was underlined by one Frente leader, who referred to the tight relationship between lack of both transparency and fairness in the ways used by mining companies to acquire land and the knock-on effects of this on efforts at dialogue.

This point was only enhanced by MMG’s almost-simultaneous announcement that it is facing a civil claim, brought by the Fuerabambas community, which seeks to nullify the 2011 agreement under which land for the mine was acquired in return for the construction of the new town of Nueva Fuerabamba.