New policy lines appear to be in gestation which would, if enacted, help resolve problems surrounding extractive industries and how their use of land and resources can coexist with others. Some in government appear to be thinking seriously about how such policies could help reduce conflict over extractive industries.
Raúl Molina, the vice-minister with responsibility for land use (ordenamiento territorial), made a striking speech on 7 February, putting the case for new moves on land use and demarcation. He argued for the development of a coherent policy that would help mining and other sectors (above all agriculture) to coexist.
After months of struggling with the issues, he said he was convinced that both indigenous communities and the government needed to abandon case-by-case approaches and look for a coherent approach for the long term. The Plan de Cierre de Brechas, a blueprint to reduce social divides, should be the instrument for planning uniformity of outcomes with respect to infrastructure and social coverage.
Peru has tended to shrink back from developing a land policy which would provide and enforce the rules for co-existence between mining, largely because of the tensions involved. But, as numerous observers have pointed out, it has to be done. Molina argued that such a land policy needs to be integrated into strategies of natural disaster mitigation.
This new discourse is welcome, particularly as the National Commission on Mining Reform reaches the point of making recommendations. Important conflicts over extractives continue to rage in Loreto, Espinar (Cuzco), Ayacucho and Arequipa. In reporting on the vice-minister’s speech, La República heralded it as the possible new strategy to end discord.
The competition between mining and agriculture has been fundamental to the endless conflicts of recent years. There has been a total absence of systematic policy to allow the two to co-exist.
And most importantly, in addition to the regulation of land-use, there has been no reform of monitoring and control mechanisms that could engender trust in conventions and rules. Monitoring of environmental effects is integral to introducing a sense of justice and to controlling abuses. So is listening in constructing the needed institutions.
But for all this to happen there need to be huge shifts in attitudes and a commitment to serious dialogue. Strong leadership here could bring a breakthrough in facilitating growth with greater equality and in incorporating a proper valuation of rights. Will it be forthcoming?