This is a translation of an article by Carlos Monge in Diario Uno, published on 1 April.
The conflict surrounding Las Bambas is entirely the responsibility of the government and MMG.
Officials, media analysts and business people respond indignantly that the only thing that those protesting want is money. But the message systematically relayed by the last few governments is that the social license for large mining projects is achieved through money. Such was the logic of the Las Bambas Social Fund (US$60 million) and others launched by the Toledo administration, Alan García’s Programa Minero de Solidaridad con el Pueblo, and the current government’s communal canon programme.
Moreover, MMG bought Las Bambas and changed its design. It replaced the mineroducto (beltway) contemplated in the initially approved Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with a fleet of more than 150 trucks that pass to and from through Cotabambas, Chumbivilcas and Espinar provinces to the detriment of roads, homes, crops and livestock belonging to local people.
The government approved this change by a modification to the EIA when what it should have done is to demand a new EIA, analyse the impacts with rigour, inform the local authorities and promote discussion with local people. Furthermore, since it was a decision that had substantial impact on an indigenous population, it should have involved prior consultation (consulta previa).
The arrangement with the community of Fuerabamba was to give them land (including the Fundo Yavi Yavi) in return for their acceptance of being moved from their place of origin to what is now called Nueva Fuerabamba. But when this was agreed, the construction of the mineroducto was still on the table, and only a rough track passed over its land. Today that track is now a national highway with those 150 trucks passing along it daily one way or the other.
There is every reason for the community to demand reparation and compensation from the company and the government for the damage wrought to their lives by this arbitrary change to the original project design. How people would protest (and rightly) if something like this happened in San Isidro or Miraflores.
Finally, it is quite possible that there are community members or advisors who, following the example of Alberto Fujimori, Alejandro Toledo, Ollanta Humala and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, have been involved in corrupt activities. If so, they should be subjected to impartial investigation, judicial procedures and (if proven) tough penalties.
But this should not negate the right to protest and demand changes. What is needed is expropriation at a fair price, a new EIA, and due consultation. Criminalising and repressing protest will just make things worse. Today’s demand for proper compensation could become tomorrow’s outright rejection of the mine. Just remember the [Peruvian] refrain ‘sow winds and you will harvest tempests’.