Copper and gold mining in Espinar have a long history of discord going back to state ownership under Velasco and before that when mines were in foreign hands. For years, it was Tintaya that dominated the story (later Tintaya-Antapaccay), in the hands of BHP Billiton, then Xstrata, then Glencore. Poor community relations have run through the whole story, except for a brief period in the early 2000s. Discord has arisen over compensation for land, provision of development opportunities, and contamination. On this last point, there have been horrific findings on toxicity levels in humans and animals.
Today the main concern is the extension to Coroccohuayco, as Tintaya is now fully exploited, and the heart of the conflict concerns the modification of the environmental impact assessment (MEIA) to extend the 2010 EIA for Tintaya-Antapaccay.
The 13 communities in the zone of influence of the new project have been protesting and demanding serious prior consultation. They launched an indefinite strike on 12 November. On 19 November, a high-level commission arrived from Lima, including the prime minister, Vicente Zeballos, and an impressive number of vice-ministers. The Cuzco regional governor also attended, plus local mayors and representatives of the 13 communities.
After a five-hour meeting, an agreement was reached to conduct a prior consultation. The meeting re-opened the contention over whether Coroccohuayco was to be considered as just an extension of Antapaccay and whether the EIA approved in 2010 would suffice. There was no prior consultation over Anatpaccay since it was considered an extension of Tintaya.
Since 2010, two issues have now come sharply into focus.
- The first is whether an ‘extension’ requires fresh consultation. The Defensoria has stated firmly that if a proposed extension has an impact on the collective rights of indigenous communities, consultation is required.
- The second is when consultation should take place. Pressure has been growing to recognise that it is meaningless to consult before the start of operations, rather at an earlier stage when decisions are made and permits granted. The Defensoria has pronounced on this several times, as have numerous analysts.
A third issue is whether communities are properly geared up to engage in serious prior consultation. However, there are grounds for hope in this case. No less than 14 of the most well-prepared NGOs working in human rights and extractives have made public a letter on 26 November arguing for the need to seize this opportunity and take forward a meaningful consultation. This shows the necessary professional support and awareness of the issues. The letter notes that the plans presented by Glencore imply the purchase of numerous community lands and the loss of collective infrastructure.
In a statement dated 19 November, the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MINEM) announced that it will provide the norms to conduct the prior consultation within 30 days. However, the document does not clarify what is to be consulted or why new norms are needed.