As we commented last week, the government recently published a report recommending reforms for sustainable mining in Peru. This past Thursday, on 25 June, the report was publicly presented and debated for the first time. Over 170 persons listened to the summary presentation by Roxana Barrantes (head of the commission tasked with producing the report), the comments of Pablo de la Flor (executive director of the Sociedad Nacional de Minería, Petróleo y Energía (SNMPE)), José de Echave (researcher at Cooperacción) and Paola Bustamante (the high commissioner for dialogue and development in the so-called ‘southern corridor’).

Roxana Barrantes´s presentation highlighted some central ideas behind the commission’s proposals. Even if its initial mandate was to propose reforms to the mining law, the commission chose to propose a broader set of recommendations for sustainable mining in Peru. It had piggy-backed on the recommendations of the Visión de la Minería en el Perú al 2030, published by Rimay last year. Though Barrantes made clear that mining is crucial for Peru and that the global transition to a cleaner and sustainable energy matrix will demand more production of some minerals, the industry needs to be a driver of development for local communities and the country at large. The commission believed that the entire mining-related activity of the state needs to be reorganised on the basis of specific territories, their needs and characteristics and that the requirements for exploration need to be streamlined.

Pablo de la Flor was sympathetic to the report, particularly the proposals to eliminate consultations on exploration activities, to prepare development plans for different territories to close social gaps, and to use mining rents for that purpose. He also supported an earlier and more collaborative approach to the preparation of environmental impact assessments (EIAs).

José de Echave questioned the use of indices such as those of the Canadian Fraser Institute and other national ones that are applied to mining, arguing that they expressed the interests of investors more than describing reality. He highlighted what he saw as omissions among the proposals, such as the way in which environmental institutions have been weakened since 2013, tax-related issues, and the lack of proper consideration of worker rights in a sector where most workers are hired indirectly through service and other intermediary companies.

Paola Bustamante highlighted the importance of a regionally sensitive approach to sustainable mining and the need for much better coordination between the multiple levels of state administration (national, regional, local) and the ministries involved. These include mining (MINEM), the environment (MINAM), and culture (MINCUL) among others.

Owing to time limits, there was no chance for more in-depth debate. But participants could at least appreciate the lines of thought adopted by the commission as well as the views of leading figures from the private sector, civil society and the state.

More debate will surely follow. President Martín Vizcarra and his cabinet will assess which of these recommendations to adopt as the basis for legislation to be presented to Congress. The Congress, in turn, will certainly discuss such legislative proposals. It will also revise the report and come up with its own suggestions.

There is no doubt that this sort of open debate is a healthy way to consider decisions on such important matters. They should not be rushed through nor decided upon in secrecy. But to be truly democratic, the debate needs to be decentralised and the views of mineworkers and local communities taken into account.