In the fight to resurrect the economy, now said to be running at 44% capacity, the danger of throwing out important institutional arrangements, often hard-fought for over years, is very great.

An example is the series of decrees attempting to support renewed investment, published on 11 May. As we reported last week, DL 1500 deals with special measures to “reactivate, improve and optimise” the execution of investment projects in the face of the impact of the virus. An analysis by Red Muqui further develops the serious dangers already outlined by DAR and summarised by us last week.

The first concerns citizen participation. Such participation requirements perform an important role in protecting citizens’ rights and avoiding conflict, says Red Muqui, but the decree allows that such participation may happen virtually, effectively eliminating the important collective element and marginalising citizens with no access to the internet. The decree also allows such a concession for participation with regard to projects already under evaluation.

The second worrying area for Red Muqui concerns environmental monitoring. Companies are exempted from reporting, usually to OEFA, whenever it involves fieldwork; understandable because of the risk of exposure to infection, but dangerous without some alternative method of control.

The third concern highlighted both by DAR and by Red Muqui concerns fines, where the system is weakened and payments can be delayed. Such fines are the main source of funds for an institution such as OEFA, which needs to be effective and properly resourced if environmental control is to have any bite.

The concern to reduce exposure of all concerned to the risks of monitoring fieldwork is understandable, but serious questions remain. Should mining be re-opening when such dangerous concessions need to be made? And will the weakening of control implied become ‘the new normal’?