As we have seen, Pedro Cateriano lasted only 19 days as prime minister and the new ministerial line-up includes a new minister of energy and mines, an appointment designed to allay congressional opposition.
The work plan that Cateriano presented to Congress on 3 August expressed an unvarnished version of the ‘Perú país minero’ vision so close to the hearts of mining authorities and private companies in the sector.
Cateriano’s opening statement when he started talking about mining was that “Peru has been a mining country ever since pre-Hispanic times. We have a millennial activity that is part of our culture”. He went on claiming that “Mining is undoubtedly the backbone of Peru’s economy. This unfortunately [is something] that some people don’t understand”.
What followed was a long list of measures designed to promote investment in hydrocarbons and mining, at the expense of tax income, of environmental protection and of indigenous rights. It was a sort of ‘mining charter’. The list included:
- expediting the use of canon money to pay for public health projects;
- authorising the Ministry of Energy and Mines to fund technical blueprints for projects for regional and municipal investments in the so-called ‘mining corridor’ that includes parts of Apurímac, Cuzco and Arequipa;
- revising the regulations governing mining procedures and exploration so as to speed up decisions regarding the environment;
- the shortening “by at least six months” of the time taken for consultations with indigenous peoples (see PSG article);
- the speeding up of authorisations involving the National Water Authority (ANA);
- a review of royalty regulations to the benefit of oil companies impacted by the current crisis;
- changes to the regulations regarding the protection of the environment for oil and gas projects;
- changes to the Hydrocarbons Law; and
- a review of the regulations related to the national and regional Natural Protected Areas management plans.
None of these measures would increase the government’s take of the wealth generated by extractive activities, or improve the ecosystems where hydrocarbons and mineral reserves are located, or to strengthen the capacity of indigenous peoples to exercise their rights. On the contrary, they would lower standards and speed up procedures to encourage investment. It was a repeat of the sort of “race to the bottom” policies implemented during and after 2014 when it became clear that the commodity super-cycle was over.
The question that now arises is what the new prime minister, his cabinet and the new minister of energy and mines will do about these policies. Miguel Incháustegui, the new minister, who was vice-minister of mines in 2018, has long experience of the private sector. He has been director of Turmalina Metals Corp and Cañariaco Copper Peru and has worked at Gold Fields and Lumina Copper.
As vice-minister, Incháustegui promoted and led the drafting of the 2030 Peru Mining Vision. This document resulted from a multi-stakeholder dialogue involving the business sector, public officials from a variety of ministries, and civil society organisations. The 2030 Vision sought to bring together in a more balanced way concerns about competitiveness, social inclusion, environmental sustainability and good governance, a far cry from Cateriano’s lopsided approach.
The new prime minister will have to spell out his agenda in Congress this coming Tuesday in order to receive a vote of confidence in the new cabinet. Will he and Incháustegui stick to Cateriano’s pro-extractive discourse, or will they veer in the direction of the 2030 Mining Vision?
But the dynamics of social conflict do not wait for visions to be spelled out. They demand immediate action. As we see in this article, Incháustegui immediately found himself leading a high-level commission to deal with the conflict du jour, the long-running battle between communities and mining company (in this case Glencore) in Espinar, Cuzco. As readers will see, this represents a good start. Let’s see where it leads.