Reactivation policies are being put in place in the mining industry, with a first stage involving large-scale operations and projects considered to be of national interest. Firmly in the first phase will be the 20 to 30 larger companies that make up some 70% of mining GDP. Companies must be above a daily minimum of production and must have plans approved showing how they will comply with health and other protocols.
Meanwhile, on as it were the other side, companies are clearly nervous about local conditions and the danger of flare-ups of the virus that can be attributed to mining and movements of their labour force.
One common strategy, practised worldwide, is the provision of food to local communities to try to keep them out of ‘dangerous’ towns. MMG, the owners of the Las Bambas mine, has given food and care packages to 6,000 families in the area around the mine in Apurímac.
Anglo American at Quellaveco in Moquegua has distributed 15,500 food packages. Anglo has also provided PPE, transport and even six ICU beds with equipment. For more detail, go to Anglo American’s response to question at the company’s virtual AGM on 7 April put by the London Mining Network.
A further strategy is the provision of tests for Covid-19. Anglo American has provided 10,000 to local authorities, with priority to local merchants as well as the usual list of front-line workers.
Such donations are complex in their motivations and their consequences. Done at one level to create a safer environment for the mine to go ahead, they have many wider consequences in their political impact. On the one hand, they fill a need, can be seen as a socially responsible action, and can help with public relations. On the other hand, they can be interpreted as demonstrating the incapacity of the state and undermining its legitimacy.
Any large mining corporation in Peru is liable to generate relations of dependency between the company and local authorities, and equally the company and the local population, and these practices risk accentuating an unhealthy political economy. Arguably, it would be far better to tax the companies equitably in order to generate the resources to strengthen the state and be able to exercise an effective public response to the crisis.